Being one of the most successful franchises in NFL history hasn't always translated to fantasy football league championships when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was the case in the Steel City last season as WR Mike Wallace was the lone Pittsburgh player to crack a top ten list at any of the skill positions. It certainly didn't help that the Steelers, despite posting a 12-4 overall record, managed just 20.3 points per game in 2011. Let's take a trip to Three Rivers to see if we can forge any fantasy success in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Fantasy Options
When it comes to "serviceable" fantasy pivots, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger fits the mold. Not usually one to post monster fantasy stats, Big Ben can normally be relied on to post mid range double-digit numbers on a weekly basis. Roethlisberger had a career high 513 pass attempts last season, the result was 4,077 yards with 12 TD and 14 INT. 2011 was the first year in nine seasons that Roethlisberger didn't register a rushing TD as he recorded just 70 yards on the ground.
Fantasy owners who select Roethlisberger as their starting QB, need to look past the Steelers when it comes to drafting a backup pivot. That's because Pittsburgh reserves, QB Byron Leftwich and QB Charlie Batch, are not worthy of a draft selection. Leftwich has just seven pass attempts over the past two seasons, while Batch is 37 years old.
Steelers QB Analysis: With new offensive coordinator Todd Haley in town, not to mention questions abounding at the running back position, there's a ton of talk that the Steelers will get vertical this season. Haley and older QB Kurt Warner were successful in Arizona and with top talent at the wide receiver position, there's no reason to think he can't jump start the passing game in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger should be considered as top end QB2 heading into 2012.
Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back Fantasy Options
Times are changing in Pittsburgh when it comes to their hallmark ground and pound offensive philosophy. Injury woes, as much as anything else, have prompted the change. RB Rashard Mendenhall followed up a 1,274 rushing yards and 13 TD season in 2010, with 928 yard and nine TD stat line in 2011 – before suffering a torn ACL in Week 17 versus Cleveland.
While Mendy recently tweeted that the injury "has healed wonderfully" he is expected to start the 2012 season on the PUP list and could miss six games or more. With Mendenhall sidelined, the Steelers will turn to backup RB Issac Redman to carry the load. In the final year of his rookie contract, Redman would benefit from a big season in Pittsburgh.
Steelers RB Analysis: The Steelers' running back situation has confusing written all over it. Mendenhall's already declining yards per rush average only add to his injury woes and makes him a major risk. Redman has shown promise, but how much work he will get when Mendy returns is debatable. Leave the Pittsburgh running back crew for your competition to figure out.
Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver Fantasy Options
Conjuring up images of John Stallworth and Lynn Swann, the Steelers have an emerging dynamic dual at the wide receiver position. WR Mike Wallace is one of the most feared deep threats in the league, while WR Antonio Brown busted out in his sophomore season. Despite slumping late in the year, Wallace still posted 1,193 yards and eight TDs last season. A red flag with Wallace is the fact that he still isn't at training camp and may not be until late August.
With Wallace getting a ton of double coverage, Antonio Brown made the most of his opportunity as the starter on the other side of the field. Brown hauled in 69 passes for 1,108 yards and two touchdowns in his second year. The dramatically low TD total is a cause for concern, but an optimist would say that number only stands to go up during 2012 NFL.
Journeyman WR Jerricho Cotchery (who signed a two-year contract during the off-season), will battle injury prone third year WR Emmanuel Sanders for the WR3 role in Pittsburgh. Cotchery's production has dropped consistently over the past four seasons. In the final year of his rookie contract, Sanders has played in just 24 of 32 games over his first two seasons.
Steelers WR Analysis: While I want to see if the promised aerial attack will materialize during training camp, I am a fan of Mike Wallace as a low end WR1 if and when he gets his deal done. Antonio Brown, because of his low 2011 TD total, should come with decent value as a low end WR2. Fantasy owners should consider Emmanuel a late round flyer and hope he stays healthy.
Pittsburgh Steelers Tight End Fantasy Options
Semi-productive throughout his career, TE Heath Miller enters his eighth season in Steel Town. It's also the final season of his current six-year contract. A bruising TE, who is also asked to block on a regular basis, Miller hauled in 51 receptions for 631 yards and two touchdowns last season - up from the 42 receptions and 512 yards he posted in 2010.
Steelers TE Analysis: Neither TE Leonard Pope, who has followed Haley from Arizona to Kansas City and now to Pittsburgh, or Weslye Sanders are much of a challenge to Miller. There is talk of an expanded role in the Steelers offense for Miller and he could have value as a mid-range TE2. That said, try as we may, we can't come up with a tight end that has ever been productive in a Todd Haley directed offense.
Pittsburgh Steelers Fantasy Bottom Line: As a blue-collar, smash you in the mouth type football club, fantasy owners are always taking a chance with the offense in Pittsburgh. The danger of Roethisberger going down, without a reliable backup QB behind him, is also a major cause of concern. Personally, Wallace will be high on my wish list but I will pass on the rest of the Pittsburgh players early on during Draft Day 2012.