Fantasy Stud — Antonio Brown, WR
Boy, it was hard to pick a “stud” fantasy player for the Steelers, but somebody’s got to be the star this year, right? Ben Roethlisberger isn’t a top tier fantasy QB in my opinion, and it’s too early to put Le’Veon Bell in this spot. Can you consider Heath Miller a stud fantasy player at the TE position?
Mike Wallace is gone, so you assume either Antonio Brown or Emmanuel Sanders is going to step up and emerge for Pittsburgh as the #1 receiver. I think that guy will be Antonio Brown.
Brown didn’t make as many big plays last year as he did in 2011, but he still was only three catches shy of his career high 69, and he caught five touchdowns, which is a career best. Brown will be the most-targeted receiver for the Steelers this year as long as he stays healthy I think, so he could put up around 75-80 catches. The Steelers want so badly to be a running team, but Ben Roethlisberger has been forced to throw it a lot more than he probably wants to.
With the questionable health of Roethlisberger, it’s fair to wonder if anyone on the Steelers can be a true “Fantasy Stud” in 2013.
Fantasy Risk — Ben Roethlisberger, QB
Roethlisberger is simply not reliable enough health wise for me to put him in that top tier of fantasy quarterbacks. Still, I think Big Ben is one of the top playmakers in the NFL, and even with his body seemingly wearing down, this is a guy who could either be a great pickup for your team as a backup QB or he could completely flop and play in 12 games.
Roethlisberger is typically a pretty accurate quarterback who has a handful of 300 yard games, but the most impressive stat line from his year last year was 26 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Throwing 26 touchdowns in just 13 games is a stat that I am a huge fan of, especially when considering fantasy football.
With Mike Wallace gone, it’s fair to wonder what is going to happen with the Steelers’ receiver group. Emmanuel Sanders is going to need to step up as the #2 receiver for this offense, and a lot of people really liked Oregon State rookie Markus Wheaton coming out of college this year. Heath Miller is also a reliable target, but falling back on the running game will be a huge key to Big Ben’s success.
Fantasy Sleeper — Emmanuel Sanders, WR
As the new #2 receiver in the Pittsburgh offense, Sanders has a pretty huge season ahead of him. Approaching free agency in 2014, Sanders needs to probably come close to doubling his 44 receptions last season, and this is a guy who can absolutely fly.
Sanders averaged over 14 yards per reception last year and had only one touchdown, so that figure should go up this season. I think the Steelers throw a lot more often than people think, and Sanders has a chance to be either #1 or #2 in line for targets this year, unless he totally flops. There is a chance Sanders could get passed over for Heath Miller in the passing targets, but I think this playmaker is going to demand probably around 60-65 receptions.
If he can stay healthy, I think Sanders has some solid fantasy upside as a later-round selection.
Rookie to Watch — Le’Veon Bell, RB
There’s no question about it, Le’Veon Bell is the rookie to watch for fantasy football in the Steel City. This is a guy who was considered a first round prospect early in the 2012, and he wound up getting taken in the second round by Pittsburgh. With Rashard Mendenhall off to Arizona, it’s clear that the Steelers planned on Bell taking over as their #1 back.
It’s going to take him time to adjust to the NFL, but when the Steelers call this guy’s number, he’s going to give you power, agility, and the ability to put the ball in the end zone.
I think there are only a couple rookies that are potentially better fantasy options than Le’Veon Bell this year. He is certainly among the best, and could have a huge impact on not only fantasy football, but the Steelers’ playoff hopes as well.