2019 Fantasy Football Team Previews: A new chapter begins for the Steelers

After years as one of the league's most stable franchises, seemingly overnight the Steelers devolved into one of the most volatile. Rather than doom and gloom, though, James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster leave them as equipped as could be imagined in the wake of the depatures of talents the stature of Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.  

2018 Review

Record: 9 - 6 - 1 (12th in NFL)
PPG: 26.8 (6)
YPG: 403.3 (4)
Pass YPG: 313 (2)
Rush YPG: 90.3 (31)
PAPG: 43.1 (1)
RAPG: 21.6 (31)

2018 Fantasy finishes

QB: Ben Roethlisberger - QB3
RB: James Conner - RB7; Jaylen Samuels - RB55
WR: Antonio Brown* - WR5; JuJu Smith-Schuster - WR8
TE: Vance McDonald - TE10; Jesse James* - TE23
*No longer with team

Number to know: 689

The Steelers led the NFL in pass attempts in 2018, which helped Ben Roethlisberger lead the NFL in passing yards with 5,129. Will Roethlisberger have the same success in 2019 now that he no longer has Antonio Brown on his side?

2019 Offseason

"We as an organization have moved on. I think they as professionals have moved on, so we're excited about the formulation of our team for 2019. Obviously, we appreciate the contributions that they gave us when they were a part of us, but reality is that they're no longer that, so we're focused on the guys that we work with." - Mike Tomlin, on Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell

Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (13th year)
Offensive Coordinator: Randy Fichtner (2nd year)  

Draft Picks 

1. (10) Devin Bush, LB
3. (66) Diontae Johnson, WR
3. (83) Justin Layne, CB
4. (122) Benny Snell Jr., RB
5. (141) Zach Gentry, TE
6. (175) Sutton Smith, DE
6. (192) Isaiah Buggs, DT
6. (207) Ulysees Gilbert III, LB
7. (219) Derwin Gray, T

Additions

WR Donte Moncrief, LB Mark Barron, DB Steven Nelson

Key Departures

RB Le'Veon Bell, WR Antonio Brown, TE Jesse James, OL Marcus Gilbert, LB Jon Bostic, DB Morgan Burnett

Rankings and Projections

Player
Ben RoethlisbergerQB16QB19QB7
James ConnerRB8RB9RB5
Jaylen SamuelsRB52RB48N/A
JuJu Smith-SchusterWR5WR6WR3
James WashingtonWR49WR48WR46
Vance McDonaldTE11TE12TE15
Chris BoswellK16K21K15
Steelers DSTDST14DST15DST28
 
Heath Cummings' projected offensive stats
QBBen Roethlisberger4,740 YD, 30 TD, 16 INT
RBJames Conner253 ATT, 1,090 YD, 10 TD; 67 REC, 605, 3 TD
RBJaylen Samuels36 ATT, 164 YD, 1 TD; 26 REC, 197 YD, 1 TD
WRJuJu Smith-Schuster173 TAR, 111 REC, 1,405 YD, 10 TD
WRJames Washington90 TAR, 60 REC, 787 YD, 5 TD
WRDonte Moncrief83 TAR, 46 REC, 600 YD, 4 TD
TEVance McDonald77 TAR, 50 REC, 639, 4 TD

Biggest Question

How do the Steelers replace Antonio Brown?

"Brown averaged 171 targets per year from 2013-18. Don't expect any one receiver to pick up all that slack, meaning the trio of James Washington, Donte Moncrief, and rookie Diontae Johnson will each have a hand. If there's one to target heading into training camp, it's Washington, who replaced Brown in Week 17 last year and has speed and experience catching passes from Ben Roethlisberger to lean on." - Dave Richard 

One sleeper, one breakout, and one bust

Sleeper: Vance McDonald

The Steelers have to replace a lot of production from last year with Antonio Brown (168 targets for 104 catches, 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns) and Jesse James (39 targets for 30 catches, 423 yards and two touchdowns) gone. That's a combined 207 targets for 134 catches, 1,720 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Steelers signed Donte Moncrief this offseason, and James Washington should take a bigger leap in his sophomore campaign. And obviously there's JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, as well as the team drafting rookie Diontae Johnson. But McDonald should have a bigger role as well, and he could end up as a top 10 Fantasy tight end this year. He's worth a late-round pick in all leagues.

Breakout: James Washington

It's going to be fun watching Washington, Moncrief and Johnson battle it out for the starting spot opposite Smith-Schuster. More importantly, you'll want to watch the battle for targets, and there are plenty to be had with Brown gone. I have the Steelers receivers ranked as Washington, Moncrief and Johnson behind Smith-Schuster, and I'm drafting Washington with a mid- to late-round pick whenever possible. Should he become a primary target for Ben Roethlisberger this season, he will be a breakout candidate in all leagues.

Bust: Ben Roethlisberger

You don't lose a player of Brown's caliber and get better. And while I'm hopeful for guys like Washington, Moncrief, Johnson and McDonald, they are still unproven as a group. Roethlisberger should have the chance to attempt plenty of passes, and Smith-Schuster and Conner are stars. But the loss of Brown drops Roethlisberger into the No. 2 quarterback range, and he's only worth drafting with a late-round pick.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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