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Pittsburgh Steelers fantasy preview

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Who to target and avoid in fantasy football from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

USA Today/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Warren Sharp’s Strength of Schedule: Although Warren Sharp projects the Steelers to face the NFL’s 6th-most difficult overall offensive schedule, he expects them to face the 5th-softest slate of run defenses, with a stark contrast in difficulty ahead of their Week 7 bye. From Week 8 on, it’ll be cool runnings for James Conner.

Must Draft

Last year, James Conner outproduced Le’Veon Bell in nearly every per-play category and proved himself to be the bell cow running back we thought he could before his 2015 diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Now 3 years after the successful battle for his life, the inspirational runner is set to have a career year. Draft him confidently as an all-purpose RB1.

As Evan Silva pointed out in Warren Sharp’s 2019 Football Preview, “JuJu Smith-Schuster finished fourth in the NFL in targets last season” despite sharing the field with the NFL’s No. 3 target-receiver in Antonio Brown. Some doubt Smith-Schuster’s ability to takeover as the No. 1 receiver in Pittsburgh. These people are fools. Although JuJu will face more coverage from No. 1 CBs, the Steelers run a majority of their snaps out of 3-wide receiver sets (69% per Warren Sharp). When in 3-wide, we can expect JuJu to kick back inslide to slot -- an area he dominates like few can. Concluding his section on JuJu in the previously mentioned 2019 Football Preview, Silva asserts that JuJu’s likelihood of leading the NFL in targets is as high as any of the other top dogs.

Vance McDonald is flying under drafter’s radars. The departure of Jesse James consolidates the tight end targets under McDonald’s domain. Draft McDonald as the final pick of the difference-making TE group.

Ben Roethlisberger offers back-end QB1 value, coming off the board as the QB14.

Good Values

Donte Moncrief is inexplicably being drafted behind James Washington in all formats, with both receivers coming off the board in the early double-digit rounds. Those who have kept their finger on the pulse of Steelers training camp know that not only has Moncrief won the No. 2 WR job outright, over Washington, Ben Roethlisberger has routinely sung Moncrief’s praises throughout camp. The value of having Roethlisberger’s favor cannot be overstated -- HC Mike Tomlin has fired coordinators under the quarterback’s instruction. Given Roethlisberger’s willingness to pepper his preferred options with targets, Donte Moncrief quietly has WR2 upside in the Pittsburgh offense.

Monitor

James Washington is still a worthy late-round pick in standard scoring as he’s prone to low-volume, high-production spike weeks.

Jaylen Samuels is a talented player but holds no standalone value. Per ETR’s Adam Levitan, James Conner has been on the field for 29 of Pittsburgh’s 34 1st Team snaps.

Avoid

Ryan Switzer, Diontae Johnson, and Benny Snell.