Will Big Ben Be a Force in Fantasy Again? Early Fantasy Projections For The Pittsburgh Steelers

By Matt Papiernik

As we move through mini-camp and the rest of the off-season, we inch closer to not only the start of the regular season, but to the start of Fantasy Football. Whether you’re in one league with your family, or spread your time throughout several different leagues, fantasy football is something that has become almost as popular as the real thing.

It doesn’t always work out this way, but many people will try and target players from their favorite teams. Owning a player in fantasy that is on your favorite team in real life is double the fun, but can also be double the heartache if that player has a tough game and your team loses. Below are my projections for the key players that will likely be on one of your fantasy teams this year, and hopefully some of mine.


Ben Roethlisberger

Via Charles LeClaire – USA Today

2018 Stats: 5129 Passing Yards, 34 Passing TDs, 16 INTs, 98 Rushing Yards, 3 Rushing TDs, 340.2 Fantasy Points (ESPN Standard Scoring)

2019 Projection: 4,680 Passing Yards, 33 Passing TDs, 12 INTs, 90 Rushing Yards, 2 Rushing TDs, 318 Fantasy Points

Draft Projection: 10th-12th Round

End of Season Ranking: 7th Overall Quarterback, QB1

Ben is coming off of one of his best statistical seasons of his career, and really rewarded people who invested a late round pick in him last year. I don’t see him leading the league in passing yards again, but there is no doubt he can still be a good fantasy player. I think he will manage to keep a similar number of touchdowns through the air, while also taking care of the ball a little better. The Steelers will likely lean on the run a tad more as well, taking away some of those passing yards (especially with a very talented backfield and a somewhat unproven receiving core). Overall, Ben will be a back-end fantasy starter in 10 or 12 team leagues once again, like he has been for the majority of his career.


James Conner

Via USA Today

2018 Stats: 973 Rushing Yards, 12 Rushing TDs, 55 Receptions, 497 Receiving Yards, 1 Receiving TD, 225 Fantasy Points

2019 Stat Projection: 1,173 Rushing Yards, 12 Rushing TDs, 62 Catches, 549 Receiving Yards, 2 Receiving TDs, 255 Fantasy Points

Draft Projection: mid-late First Round

End of Season Ranking: 6th Overall Running Back, RB1

James Conner took the world by storm last year and made many fantasy owners extremely happy. Conner went undrafted in most cases last season, and once Le’Veon Bell announced he wasn’t reporting for week one, owners rushed to their laptops or phones to pick Conner up. Conner finished as a top 10 RB last year, despite missing a few games. This year, I would expect much of the same, as the team will need to lean on the run with the loss of some of their other playmakers. Some people in the media are hinting at a bit of a committee in “The Burgh,” but I don’t buy it.


Jaylen Samuels

Via Philip G. Pavely – USA Today

2018 Stats: 256 Rushing Yards, 0 Rushing TDs, 26 Receptions, 199 Receiving Yards, 3 Receiving TDs, 63.5 Fantasy Points

2019 Stat Projection: 378 Rushing Yards, 2 Rushing TDs, 42 Receptions, 358 Receiving Yards, 3 Receiving TDs, 102 Fantasy Points

Draft Projection: Undrafted or late-round handcuff.

End of Season Ranking: 38th Overall Running Back, Handcuff

Samuels was seldomly used in the offense until late in the season when James Conner went down with an injury. He showed to be more than capable of carrying the load in a pinch with a great game against the New England Patriots. However, he isn’t a true running back, and lacks some of the polish that others who have played the position longer have. Regardless, Samuels will be the back to own if Conner goes down with an injury, and can be used in deeper ppr leagues in a pinch.


Benny Snell Jr.


2018 Stats: N/A

2019 Stat Projection: 187 Rushing Yards, 1 Rushing TD, 6 Receptions, 42 Receiving Yards, 0 Receiving TDs, 28 Fantasy Points

Draft Projection: Undrafted

End of Season Ranking: 88th Overall Running Back

I was debating even doing a write up on Benny Snell Jr., but I am sure if I don’t, people will ask about him, so here we are. Snell will surely make a couple deep sleeper lists in some people’s rankings. However, those people are likely also buying into the Steelers using a committee, which I do not. Snell won’t do much his rookie season unless there is an injury to James Conner, and he shouldn’t be drafted in most leagues.


JuJu-Smith Schuster

Via Charles LeClaire – USA Today

2018 Stats: 111 Receptions, 1,426 Receiving Yards, 7 Receiving TDs, 185.9 Fantasy Points

2019 Stat Projection: 105 Receptions, 1,452 Receiving Yards, 8 Receiving TDs, 193 Fantasy Points

Draft Projection: 2nd Round Pick

End of Season Ranking: 6th Overall Wide Receiver, WR1

JuJu rewarded everyone who invested an early/mid round pick on his last season by having a tremendous season, especially for someone technically serving as the team’s #2 wide receiver. I expect him to put up very similar numbers this season, as he will now be the focal point of the passing offense. Some people are skeptical if he can carry the load as a true #1 receiver, but he has the talent and confidence in order to confirm what some people already believe, that he is an elite wide receiver.


Donte Moncrief

Via Douglas DeFelice – USA Today

2018 Stats: 48 Receptions, 668 Receiving Yards, 3 Receiving TDs, 82.8 Fantasy Points

2019 Stat Projection: 61 Receptions, 840 Receiving Yards, 6 Receiving TDs, 132 Fantasy Points

Draft Projection: 10th-13th Round Pick

End of Season Ranking: 29th Overall Wide Receiver, WR3

Donte Moncrief is one of those players who everyone keeps expecting to break out, but has yet to do so. Last season he made a puzzling decision in my opinion, as he signed a one year “prove-it” deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. While the Jaguars are a good team, they weren’t one that was going to reward Moncrief with big stats to earn a big new contract. Moncrief has struggled to stay on the field, and has been inconsistent when on it, but he has a great opportunity to seize the #2 WR job in Pittsburgh, with only James Washington and Diontae Thompson in his way. I think he wins the job and ends up being a solid flex play most weeks, as he will receive consistent looks from Big Ben throughout the season.


James Washington

Via USA Today

2018 Stats: 16 Receptions, 217 Receiving Yards, 1 Receiving TD, 27.7 Fantasy Points

2019 Stat Projection: 42 Receptions, 672 Receiving Yards, 5 Receiving TDs, 97 Fantasy Points

Draft Projection: 11th-14th Round Pick

End of Season Ranking: 49th Overall Wide Receiver, WR4

James Washington had a lot of expectations coming into last season, but instead of living up to them, he had a season he will definitely want to forget. Washington was a dud on the field and in fantasy, but there is no denying the talent is still there. He had some strong showings near the end of last season that give me hope he puts it together to some extent this season. With Moncrief likely to take on the #2 role, I think Washing plays a key role as a deep threat and as a frequent red zone target.


Diontae Johnson

2018 Stats: N/A

2019 Stat Projection: 45 Receptions, 565 Receiving Yards, 2 Receiving TDs, 68 Fantasy Points

Draft Projection: Undrafted or Late Round Flier

End of Season Ranking: 64th Overall Wide Receiver

The Steelers shocked a lot of people when they selected Diontae Johnson in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft, as he wasn’t one of the bigger names at the position still on the board. But as I dug into his tape, it shows a very polished route runner for his age, and someone who possesses very good quickness. Those two combined can lead to a lot of success in the NFL. I don’t think Johnson does enough as a rookie to be worth drafting, but I definitely think he is an intriguing dynasty pick, who could just turn out to be one of the best wide receivers from this class.


Vance McDonald

Via Douglas DeFelice – USA Today

2018 Stats: 50 Receptions, 610 Receiving Yards, 4 Receiving TDs, 83 Fantasy Points

2019 Stat Projection: 55 Receptions, 702 Receiving Yards, 6 Receiving TDs, 108 Fantasy Points

Draft Projection: 11th-13th Round Pick

End of Season Ranking: 8th Overall TE, Back-end TE1

Vance McDonald looks like a WWE superstar the way he can throw people around on the football field sometimes. Unfortunately, it hasn’t lead to an overwhelming amount of success in fantasy. McDonald put together his best season last year, which was his sixth season, and second with the Steelers. It was also the most games he has played (15) since his rookie year. He managed to come in as the 10th ranked tight end at the end of last year, but his ceiling is definitely higher. I think he can become a top 5 fantasy tight end, but he must stay healthy, which has always been a problem for him.


Zach Gentry

2018 Stats: N/A

2019 Stat Projection: 9 Receptions, 78 Receiving Yards, 1 Receiving TD, 13 Fantasy Points

Draft Projection: Undrafted

End of Season Ranking: 68th Overall TE

Like Snell, Gentry is another guy I don’t think needs a write up in this article. However, I do think people will ask if he will be relevant in the offense this season. The short answer… no. Gentry is a year or two away from making any significant contribution. Yes, he is a massive guy at 6’8″, and possesses some decent athleticism when attack the ball while in the air. But he isn’t particularly fast, and isn’t nearly the blocker the Steelers would need him to be to utilize him in two tight end sets. I do think Gentry can be an intriguing piece in the future, but his rookie year likely isn’t his time.


Steelers D/ST

Via Matt Sunday DK Pittsburgh Sports

2018 Stats: 52 Sacks, 8 Interceptions, 7 Fumble Recoveries, 3 Touchdowns, 354 Points Allowed, 5,235 Yards Allowed, 110 Fantasy Points

2019 Stat Projection: 48 Sacks, 13 Interceptions, 6 Fumble Recoveries, 2 Touchdowns, 338 Points Allowed, 5, 341 Yards Allowed, 122 Fantasy Points

Draft Projection: Late Round Pick

End of Season Ranking: 7th Overall D/ST

When on the field, all eyes seem to be on the Steelers defense, as it hasn’t met the expectations many fans have set for them for several seasons. The Steelers haven’t struggled to get after the quarterback, as they lead the league in sacks over the past two seasons. However, those sacks and pressures aren’t leading to turnovers. They only had 8 interceptions last season, which was the lowest in the NFL. I think they finally turn some of those throws under pressure into turnovers, and manage to improve as a defense as a whole, as they continue to add speed and play making to a good core.


Chris Boswell

Via USA Today

2018 Stats:  (Total: 13/20)  1-39: 7/9,  40-49: 5/10,  50+: 1/1, XP: 43/48,  86.1 Fantasy Points

2019 Stat Projection:  (Total: 26/31)  1-39: 16/18 ,  40-49: 9/11,  50+: 1/2,  XP: 42/44,  124 Fantasy Points

Draft Projection: Undrafted

End of Season Ranking: 13th Overall Kicker

Where do I even begin with Chris Boswell. Just two years ago he had one of the best seasons in Steelers history for a kicker, and now, we are debating if he should even make the team out of camp. Overall, The Bos has been a good kicker for the Steelers for three out of the last four seasons, and I think the constant confidence the team has shown in him will help him get over his last year woes. I don’t think he goes back to his high output numbers from two seasons ago, but I think he definitely rebounds from his accuracy troubles from last season.


Will you be drafting any Steelers onto your fantasy football team this year? Comment below!


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