This weekly article focuses on teams in the AFC. Up first, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are coming off a season in which they went 11-5 and won the AFC North. Their season came to a close in the AFC Wild Card game when they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, 30-17, without their Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell.
The Steelers have arguably the best fantasy offense in the NFL, fielding two top players at their respective positions in running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown. With two-time Super Bowl Champion Ben Roethlisberger behind center, the Steelers could very well get back to the postseason and even further.
Ben Roethlisberger tied for the league lead in passing yards at 4,952 last season. He finished with 32 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He ranked third in passer rating at 103.3 trailing only Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo. With Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant beside him, and Bell in the backfield, Roethlisberger is once again a top NFL fantasy quarterback. With a defense that gave up 23 points per game in 2014, the Steelers’ offense will need to score if they want to make it back to the postseason. Names like Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and Russell Wilson rank high on any fantasy QB list. For 2015, Roethlisberger doesn't rank far behind.
As it currently stands, starting running back and fantasy football beast Le’Veon Bell will miss the first three games due to suspension. Bell has since appealed, but the matter remains in a holding pattern. Regardless, Bell is undoubtedly a first round lock. In 2014, he rushed for 1,361 yards on 290 attempts in 16 games while scoring eight touchdowns. Assuming the suspension stands, the overall numbers will decline, but the per week totals should remain robust.
Antonio Brown rules and Martavis Bryant rocks. The pair gives the Steelers arguably the best fantasy wide receiver combination in the AFC. Brown led the league last season with 1,698 receiving yards and ranked second in receiving touchdowns with 13. Clearly one of the top five fantasy receivers with the likes of Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, and Demaryius Thomas. Depending on your league and preference, Brown is a first to early second round pick. Bryant could be a legitimate WR2 option this coming season. In just 10 games last season, Bryant found the end zone eight times. The former Clemson product is a deep threat and has big playmaking ability. Bryant could be a steal WR2 or FLEX play depending on your league.
In case of injury or bye week or two TE leagues, consider Heath Miller. The veteran had 761 receiving yards and three touchdowns while playing in 16 games in 2014. His best days are behind him, but Roethlisberger will throw Miller's way.
With Bell facing a suspension, the Steelers’ opening week RB starter could have FLEX or RB2 appeal. While nothing is set in stone, expect new Steeler DeAngelo Williams to get the nod, assuming he can avoid the injury bug that plagued him with Carolina. Last season he only carried the ball 62 times for 219 yards and zero touchdowns. When healthy, Williams has been productive. He might be again if given a shot in Pittsburgh's offense. Second-year back Dri Archer is the more interesting and explosive option, but the RB/WR struggled as a rookie. Watch training camp for his progress.
Stay tuned for more team outlooks and NFL player news!