Editors note: In Super Bowl XL, the Seahawks lost to the Steelers in one of the biggest refereeing tragedies in modern NFL history, leading this writer to become incredibly biased against the Steelers and hate everything they stand for. However, even as bloggers we must have journalistic integrity and not show a bias one way or the other to any team. Therefore, I promise to make my following article strictly straightforward about the players and the game and not about my personal feelings for them.
Every once in awhile a team will clearly sell its soul to the devil for a chance at winning, knowing they aren't good enough to get it done themselves.
Since drafting Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, the Stealers have won 2 Super Bowls and last season returned again to the championship game before losing to the superior Green Bay Packers. They are a team that thrives on being one of the leagues top defenses (by any means necessary, within the rules or not) while being a middle-of-the-pack offense.
However, despite never having outstanding scoring, the Stealers do feature a worthwhile fantasy player or two every now and then. They've got several players that will start on fantasy rosters this season, but will any of them stay out of trouble with the law and the league to stay on the field long enough to make it worth a roster spot on your roster of good-natured human beings?
Let's take a look at the facts:
Last season he missed the teams first four games after he alledgedly did some things he shouldn't do. The target here for jokes is so large, that not even Bryon Leftwich could miss it. When he returned, he threw 17 TDs against 5 INTs and 3200 yards in 12 games, proving that good things can happen to bad people. (Come on, that's funny)
This season he probably has the most talented supporting cast he has ever had, as you will see, so if he plays a full season he might have a career year. It seems like he's been in the league forever, but he's only 29 years old. With a defense that will create a lot of turnovers and give the Stealers a short field, expect Bad Ben to potentially match his 2007 season, the only time he's ever been named to the Pro Bowl. He's a back end QB1 in 10-12 team leagues.
What he did wrong: Separate incidents involving women, less than 1 year apart.
He had a decent game in week 1 against the Falcons last season but he's got nowhere to go but down on the Stealers depth chart and is being discussed as trade bait before the season. He was 8 of 11 for 90 yards in preseason week 2 against the Eagles. Charlie Batch is still there and Leftwich is still there. If either of these QBs interests you, then I've got a spot in a new fantasy league for you, $1000 buy-in, send me the money directly.
He was drafted in the first round out of Illinois after he had a huge junior season and ran the 6th fastest official 40 time at the combine for running backs, while unofficially posting an ever faster time. His rookie season was almost completely lost to injury, but he took the job over in 2009 after Willie Parker suffered an injury of his own. Last year, he rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns. He doesn't do much in the way of receiving, catching only 23 balls for 167 yards and 0 scores in 2010. There are pros and cons to making Mendenhall one of your top 2 running backs in fantasy. Pros: He's fast, young, and plays on a good team. Cons: His value relies heavily on touchdowns because he does little in the way of catching out of the backfield, and touchdown scoring can be very volatile.
He's a top 15 running back, I'm just a little too nervous to take him in the first round.
What he did wrong: Defends Osama Bin Laden?
He was undrafted out of Bowie State and managed to make the Steelers practice squad in 2009. He made the team permanently last year and though he was thought to be the primary "goal line back" he rushed for 0 TDs last year. He did carry the ball 53 times for 247 yards however and caught 2 TDs. He's one to watch in case he does become a goal-line TD vulture.
What he did wrong: Charged with sexual assault, his senior year in high school
He was a 6th round draft pick out of Georgia Tech who probably had the talent to go in the first couple of rounds, but he had a poor combine and (What he did wrong) tested positives for amphetamines. He's the 2nd most interesting running back in Pittsburgh because he's younger than Mewelde Moore and more of a talented all-around back than Redman. But he's a deep sleeper at best. He rushed 13 times for 44 yards against Philly in the 2nd preseason game.
DeSean Jackson gets credit as the leagues biggest "big play" wide receiver but Mike Wallace has an argument for the title after he led the NFL in yards per catch during his rookie season, then led the AFC again last year with 21 yards per catch, just behind Jackson for first in the NFL. It's the same kind of big play style he had in high school and at Mississippi when his 18.8 YPC led the SEC.
He topped 100 yards 7 times last year and scored 10 touchdowns, but the question for me becomes "What's his value like in a PPR league?" Obviously, he's a WR1 no matter what kind of league you're in, but if he catches 60 balls for 1,200 yards and this other guy (Roddy White for example) catches 100 balls for 1,200 yards, that's already a 40-point difference over the course of a season. Leagues don't generally care about yards per catch but a point-per-reception is becoming much more common. He's a WR1, probably a hair behind DeSean Jackson, but still downgraded compared to guys who catch a few more balls in the elite-class.
Now 35 years old, can we declare Ward as "over the hill"? He played in 15 games last season; four of them were big games and 11 of them were fantasy duds, leaving him as a very inconsistent option and his 47 yards per game were the lowest he's had since 2000. In my book he's a WR4 at best, someone to have on your bench as insurance, and nothing more. The Stealers are moving forward with Wallace and other, younger options, while Ward should serve as more of a mentor, who could have a couple of big games.
What he did wrong: DUI
He's a fan favorite that was drafted in the third round out of SMU last year and caught 28 passes for 376 yards. He's been out with injury but expected to be back by the start of the regular season. He's going to be fighting for playing time with the newly signed Jerricho Cotchery. He's a good player to keep an eye on, but because of the depth at the position, I wouldn't draft him.
As mentioned, he's new to Pittsburgh from the Jets, and is an experienced and dependable wideout but since his 82 catch, 1,130 yard 2007 season he hasn't put up really big numbers. He's someone you spot start perhaps because of injury, but there's a lot of talent at the position in Pittsburgh and he'll be fighting behind Wallace and Ward for catches.
Well regarded by the coaching staff and other players, he's viewed as a steal in the 6th round of last years draft. Though he only caught 16 passes last year and is drowning in a sea of other talented players at the position, he's another one to keep an eye on if he manages to swim to the top of that pool. He currently leads the Stealers in receiving after the first 2 preseason games.
He was drafted in 2005 in the first round, meaning he's been around for all 3 Super Bowls and has had a very successful career, though 2009 was his only Pro Bowl and the only time he was a true TE1 in fantasy. Otherwise, he's a spot start/backup option or perhaps if you are punting TE in your draft, Miller is your guy. He caught just 2 touchdowns last year and topped 60 yards only once.
What he did wrong: He's a Stealer.
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