Last year looked to be the year for the Pittsburgh Steelers to make one final push for the ring with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm, but they ended up falling short in the Wild Card Round. Well, Big Ben decided to forego retirement another year and try one more time. Unfortunately, not everyone on the team got the memo as their once stout offensive line has just about all left either via free agency, cuts, or retirement. Outside of the offensive line and losing one of their star LBs, Bud Dupree, in free agency, the team is returning a lot of their key players on offense and defense.
Instead of heavily addressing the offensive line early in the NFL Draft, they elect to get their star RB that they have desperately missed in recent years with Najee Harris. The Steelers followed that by picking up a TE in Pat Freirmuth. They finally take back-to-back offensive linemen in the 3rd and 4th round in an extremely deep offensive line class but ignore it the rest of the way. The defense looks to be just as good as 2020, but it’ll be the offensive line that will be key in dictating the team’s performance in 2021. Will they be able to keep Ben upright and create space for Najee Harris? Or will we be back to the dink and dunk offense because Ben doesn’t have time to do any more than that?
2021 Fantasy Preview Pittsburgh Steelers- Projected Depth Chart
- Najee Harris: The first RB off the board in the 2021 NFL Draft. Everyone is projecting Najee for a ton of volume this upcoming season, and rightfully so. He is uber-talented and athletic and will demand the volume this upcoming season. With the question marks surrounding the offensive line, it’s hard to tell how efficient he’ll be with that volume, but he can be an RB1 this season with that workload and his talent alone.
- Ben Roethlisberger: Big Ben threw the third-most pass attempts in the league last year but was 16th in yards per game. They ran a dink and dunk offensive scheme and heavily relied on their WRs to make plays, especially towards the end of the season. With a new Offensive Coordinator coming through, most expect that to change. Roethlisberger can still be a low-end QB1/high-end QB2 for fantasy teams because he will most likely still get a good amount of passing volume and has great weapons in JuJu, Claypool, and Diontae. The offensive line is still a question mark here and a lot depends on whether they can keep him upright since this isn’t the same spry Ben Roethlisberger as before.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster: JuJu was on a great pace to start his career in 2017 and 2018, developing very nicely as a very young player. He has had unfortunately disappointing seasons the previous 2 years but was still fantasy relevant in 2020. With more competition for targets than he’s ever had in his young career (Claypool, Johnson, Freiermuth, Ebron), a mid-tier WR2 with a high-end WR2 ceiling is about the best fantasy managers can hope for. He signed a surprisingly cheap 1-year deal, so he could be looking at a much more open situation next year. Someone to keep an eye on in dynasty as an investment now could be cheaper than this time next offseason as he is still only 24 years old.
- Chase Claypool: Chase Claypool looked like a budding star in his rookie campaign with his size/speed combination thriving as a deep threat and contested ball catcher. There were some inconsistencies here and there, but his big games were massive. He’ll look to improve upon the impressive rookie season in 2021, and hopefully provide consistent WR2 numbers with the WR1 upside on a week-to-week basis. If dynasty managers snagged him late in rookie drafts last year, they are more than happy with the return on investment thus far.
- Diontae Johnson: Despite the knocks on Johnson for his drops during the season, he continued to be a target hog in this offense. He consistently put up double-digit fantasy points when he was on the field, but did struggle to stay healthy a bit this season. When healthy, fantasy managers can be confident putting Johnson in their lineups because, despite all the weapons on this offense, Johnson got his points more often than not.
Keep an eye on
- Eric Ebron: Pittsburgh has struggled to maintain a fantasy-relevant tight end in recent years. Despite giving Ebron 91 targets this year (8th in the league in TE targets), he only provided fantasy managers with a bye-week fill-in/streaming value and a TE13 overall finish. His only TE1 performance in his career has been in 2018 where he was buoyed by 110 targets and 13 touchdowns. His contract is up at the end of this season, so there is a chance he goes elsewhere for another shot to live up to his Draft Day hype.
- James Washington: Dynasty managers should keep an eye on James Washington as he is entering the final year of his rookie contract. In 2019, Washington made solid improvements in his game and looked to be a budding fantasy producer. But when the 2020 season rolled around it was obvious that he was buried on the depth chart behind Claypool, JuJu, and Diontae. Maybe a change in scenery will help his value as well as a few spot starts if an injury happens to someone in this WR trio.
- Pat Freiermuth: Currently behind Ebron on the depth chart, it’ll be hard-pressed for Freiermuth to pass the veteran in year one. But at the end of 2021, JuJu and Ebron’s contract will be up, opening up a lot of vacated targets. In 2022, Freiermuth will be a year into the league, more acclimated to the NFL talent and there will be a lot of vacated targets in front of him. He is an uberly talented and versatile TE that would be getting a lot more hype this offseason if we didn’t have Kyle Pitts in this same draft class.
- Dwayne Haskins: Haskins is a deep deep superflex dynasty stash. He was a first-round pick that has already played significant time in the league. Behind Ben Roethlisberger, there is Mason Rudolph and Joshua Dobbs, neither have been all that impressive. If he can sit behind Ben for a year and really work on improving his game, he could impress the team enough for them to give him a shot at being the heir apparent. It’s definitely a long shot as the heir to Big Ben is likely not on the team, but it could be a worthy investment for basically free in most leagues.
***Note: All projections and discussions are assuming full PPR formats.***
2021 Fantasy Preview Pittsburgh Steelers- Stat Projections
***Note Player Projections are only fantasy relevant players. Team totals may not add up as we left out players that may not have a significant impact on the season. Projections provided by Rich King and is based on 16 games.***
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