Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Fantasy Preview

Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Fantasy Preview

by August 24, 2021 0 comments

The Pittsburgh Steelers were a fantasy goldmine during the 2020 season. While the passing game wasn’t efficient, it made many players fantasy relevant. Ben Roethlisberger had the third-most passing attempts despite missing a game. However, the offensive line was suspect and did not improve throughout the offseason like many were predicting it would. Moving forward, the offensive line could be the bane of this offense, as the team has a wide range of outcomes that can occur.

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Overall, there is optimism with first-round running back Najee Harris who runs extremely hard but is a dynamic receiver as well. The ascension of Chase Claypool is notable for the team, as he competes with Diontae Johnson for Roethlisberger’s favorite target. As of August 22, James Washington was still with the team but requested a trade as he didn’t get the volume he wanted. With all of that said, there should be many fantasy points to go around for this team, so let us get into it.

Make sure to check out all of our other 2021 Fantasy Football Previews.

Quarterbacks – Ben Roethlisberger

Roethlisberger had one of the quickest times to throw last year and had a significant volume of passes. The downfield targets were not as prevalent, perhaps due to the elbow surgery, he was recovering from. Now a year removed from the injury and with re-found mechanics, Roethlisberger represents an excellent fantasy option in a pinch. Because his range of outcomes is so wide, not knowing if the offensive line can hold up versus returning to his old self of slinging the rock downfield more, there is more risk to him.

As a late-round quarterback or a streaming option, Roethlisberger will have top-12 weeks against opponents with poor secondaries. His average draft position is 214, making him a nice addition at the end of drafts if you miss on a top guy. Overall, Roethlisberger represents a guy who can be picked up and dropped with very little risk. Furthermore, he is the ideal target as a second quarterback in super flex leagues.

Running Backs – Najee Harris, Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland Jr.

There is one option here at running back and it’s Harris. The team historically had a workhorse back and someone who can catch the ball. Harris is built in a typical Alabama running back way at 6’2” and 230 lbs. He’s a violent runner with the ability to make defenders miss. His hurdle and burst always get underrated as he’s such a large back, defenders (and media) think he’s limited to go through them. Finally, he’s extremely fluid for being 230 lbs, and he has a nice wiggle/use of hips in open space which helps in the pass-catching.

Harris is an extremely underrated pass-catcher who can create big plays with his body control and tracking of the football. His route running for a 230 lb running back is great and he will give linebackers some trouble. Overall, Harris could have 350 touch potential as the workhorse back. Expect 250 to 275 carries with a team that wanted to run the ball more last year. The targets are interesting and could go a few ways, but 60 to 100 targets are in the cards as they should be able to split out wide as a receiver.

The backup options will only be fantasy relevant if Harris goes down. Ballage is the backup to own as camp reports suggest he could be capable of running back. McFarland is a nice pass-catcher and will be the main pass-catching guy if Harris gets hurt. Other reports suggest Benny Snell is on the outs. Overall, there isn’t a single trustworthy handcuff in the backup group.

Wide Receivers – Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington

Johnson is going to be a machine getting peppered with targets. His problem was mental concentration drops, which can be fixed. Expect Johnson to lead the team in targets and receptions making him extremely valuable in PPR. He’ll have some exceptional catches and produce consistent separation on routes. If he fixes the drops, there is a chance he could lead the team in touchdowns and yards.

However, it is a better bet to believe Claypool will lead the team in yards and touchdowns. Claypool is many fantasy analysts’ choice for prime breakout candidate as he’s 6’4” and 239 lbs, but ran a 4.39 40-yard dash which shows up on tape. In a sentence, he’s an athletic freak with a knack for spectacular catches and elite body positioning and leverage use. His tracking and hands hopefully will improve, but the only thing stopping him from being an elite fantasy is volume. He’s not going to be as valuable as Johnson in PPR as he’ll be a downfield threat who will capitalize on low receptions, high yards/touchdowns. Claypool’s current ADP (sixth round in 12 team PPR Redraft) has the chance to win people their leagues if he becomes a WR1.

JuJu was once thought of as a borderline WR1 fantasy target, yet he doesn’t get the valuable targets that he once did. He’s a complementary receiver for the team who should have a significant number of passing attempts throughout the season. As it stands, he’s somewhat unreliable but can offer fantasy teams a WR3. Washington is somewhat the forgotten man with the other three players taking up a vast majority of the volume. The speedster doesn’t have much fantasy promise unless an injury occurs. He just won’t get enough volume to be fantasy-relevant.

Tight Ends – Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth

Ebron is the classic possession tight end with nice red zone upside who can be started in the most desperate of situations. He showed he could be a capable streamer, but there are simply too many mouths to feed here for the Steelers. While both Ebron and Freiermuth will have catches and touchdowns, there is a low floor for both players, making this a hazardous tight-end situation. There should be fear that Freiermuth will siphon some targets and goal line receptions away from Ebron.

Defense/Special Teams

Steelers are thought of as one of the better fantasy D/ST options for good reason, the defense is littered with talent. They’re a solid unit with a good starting schedule. Leagues that give extra points for sacks will want to consider this defense more heavily. Largely, because the front seven are among the best in the league and will disrupt opposing quarterbacks. However, there should be some hesitation as the cornerback room lacks depth and is questionable after Joe Haden. In addition, Haden is 32 years old making it fair to wonder if he can retain his status as a good player. This secondary represents lots of questions, but with turnovers and an elite front seven, it is still a desirable D/ST.


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Contributor for Prime Time Sports Talk for the NFL. Covering the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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