Fantasy Football: Breaking down the Pittsburgh Steelers

• Inside the Locker Room

With Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Is Ben Roethlisberger an under- or overrated fantasy option at QB?
Depends on where you have him ranked. He is not going to put up big numbers consistently. But he is probably worthy of a middle-round pick, if you don’t have an elite fantasy QB, and then start him based on matchups.

Can we expect Mike Wallace to continue to improve his numbers in the magical third season, or did he top out in 2010?
The Steelers still expect Wallace, whom coach Mike Tomlin calls a “one-trick pony” as a means of motivating him, to improve. But his numbers could dip even as he evolves into a more complete receiver. Wallace has become such a deep threat that opposing defenses will try to take that away, but if you like his supporting cast, there is nothing to suggest that the speedster can’t build on what he did during a breakout season in 2010.

Emmanuel Sanders became a bigger part of the offense over the last half of 2010. Does that continue, and does it make Hines Ward irrelevant as a fantasy player?
Sanders is only going to get better after coming on following a slow start to his rookie season, but he’s probably a No. 3 fantasy WR at best with Wallace and Ward entrenched as the starters. His emergence will not make Ward irrelevant, but the “Dancing With the Stars” champ is a risky pick after scoring only 11 TDs combined the last two seasons. Ward’s greatest value in fantasy has been his red zone production, but unless he is close to double digits in TDs this season he is a borderline No. 2 fantasy WR — and even that may be charitable.

What’s the most intriguing question regarding fantasy football and this team in your opinion?
How much the Steelers are going to air it out this season. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians loves to throw the ball, but the Steelers re-committed to the run last season, and Rashard Mendenhall quietly had one of the best seasons by a RB in franchise history. It’s hard to see the Steelers moving away from the near 50/50 split they had as far as running and passing in 2010 unless age finally starts catching up with their defense and they are forced to play from behind this season.

• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: CLE, @SF, STL
Well, the matchups are nice, but the scheduling isn't. All three fantasy playoff weeks see the Steelers playing on a day other than Sunday, including starting the playoffs on a Thursday. That's not an enviable place to be when you have to commit to a player that late in the season with it all on the line. And the matchups are all middle of the road, save for the 49ers giving up the second-most points to WRs last year (31 ppg).

• Athlon Best Bets
Emmanuel Sanders, WR
Deep-Sleeper: Isaac Redman, RB
Overvalued: Hines Ward, WR
Top Rookie: Cameron Heyward, DL
Bounce-Back: Ben Roethlisberger, QB
Top IDP: Lawrence Timmons, LB

• Try to Avoid
Hines Ward, WR 

Despite being one of the best all-around players of this generation, Ward is clearly in decline after his worst season in a decade. Look for Emmanuel Sanders to start stealing his targets. 

• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
With few needs, much of the attention in Pittsburgh’s draft focused on building depth in the secondary and upgrading the offensive and defensive lines. Heyward should be a rotational player this season, while Marcus Gilbert will have an opportunity to contend for a spot at guard or tackle. Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen figure to factor into the secondary mix immediately. Baron Batch was the lone skill player drafted, and the Steelers envision him as a third down back. Barring injuries, Batch isn’t likely to earn fantasy consideration this season.

More Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets and Rankings:
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 280
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 240 w/ IDPs

011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks
011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense/Special Teams


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