The Steelers are often cited for their defense, and rightfully so, but the offense is still a big part of what they do and they often have a couple of fantasy starters on the roster. While they've had a top three scoring defense in six of the last eight seasons, they've maintained a scoring offense that often resides right in the middle of the pack.
That fell a bit last season when the Steelers were 21st in scoring, though they finished 12th in yards. Things will look a little different to start the year, as running back Rashard Mendenhall likely won't be out there, but at least they finally got back starting wideout Mike Wallace after a long holdout. Still, it might be best to not invest much of your fantasy starters with Pittsburgh players to start the year.
They'll be shorthanded and facing Denver on the road for Sunday Night Football. It will be important to see if the Steelers can improve upon being 14th in rushing as they were last season, or if they'll lean heavier on Ben Roethlisberger. Playing in a very "defensive" division, I'd proceed with caution all around, but here is a preview anyway of the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers offense.
2011 Record: 12-4
I'm not inclined to say anything nice about Roethlisberger ever, so why should I start now? You want important numbers, here is what Roethlisberger did in six games within the division in 2011: 117 of 195 (60%), 250.3 yards per game, 7.7 Y/A, 7 TD, 6 INT.
That's over a third of your schedule right there and the AFC North just plays a lot of good defense, especially when you count that even though the Browns might not be great overall, they have Joe Haden. You would start Roethlisberger if he had a great matchup once or twice a year and that's it.
2012 Projection: 61%, 4,000 yards, 22 TD, 15 INT
Even though he was activated off of the PUP list and won't need to miss the first six games, don't count on it. He is barely over the eight months it takes to recover from his injury and I can't imagine he'll be practicing in full pads soon. Even then, his season will be touch and go, where at best I could see him contributing in November or December.
2012 Projection: 80 carries, 400 yards, 2 TD
With Isaac Redman also hurt, Dwyer has been given a chance to show some more of what he can do. He has 84 yards on 15 carries in the preseason and could be a good bet to grab value in the first month of the season. Dwyer was a good back at Georgia Tech but only has 25 carries in two NFL seasons. He could eclipse that after two games in 2012.
2012 Projection: Start the season as starter and then slowly weened off for less and less production. Grab early and then sell high. 600 yards, 6 TD
He missed two weeks with a hip injury and is now missing practice with an ankle injury. With the nagging injuries, I wouldn't put any hope on Redman being worth starting. He's been decent in limited action as Mendenhall's backup, but so what? One game last year in the final game of the season where had 92 yards against the Brown's won't convince me that he's worth starting in fantasy. Now, injuries.
2012 Projection: You would draft him before I would. 100 carries, 430 yards, 2 TD
The small back is perhaps the most talented healthy back on the roster but I expect his season to be in limited action.
More concerning than a holdout is just how average Wallace was for the second half of the season in 2011. He had 463 yards and 3 TD in his final nine games. Maybe he should stop thinking so much about a contract and start thinking about what he can do to actually be an elite wide receiver. At no point in the final nine games did he top 82 yards and in the final six games he had only 19 catches. Add into the fact of what I said about this being a pass-defense division, and that's enough to convince me to just stay away from Wallace.
2012 Projection: 60 catches, 950 yards, 5 TD
While Wallace was sleeping last year, Brown was doing work. He had 51 catches for 846 yards over the final ten games, but only caught two touchdowns. I expect that number to go up significantly as Brown has had an entire offseason to be Roethlisberger's number one target. Brown had 80 or more yards in six of his last ten games and five or more catches in seven of them.
More consistent, better all-around receiver, didn't miss preseason and training camp. Brown has 11 catches for 204 yards in the preseason.
2012 Projection: 75 catches, 1,200 yards, 8 TD
I liked Sanders as a sleeper last season but then Brown took over the production gone missing from Ward being mostly absent in the passing game. Now 29, I don't think this will be his breakout season, but he could take a little bit of Ward's attention.
2012 Projection: 35 catches, 450 yards, 3 TD
There was a time when people liked Miller for fantasy, or at least thought he'd break out. Remove his 76 catch, 789 yard, 6 TD season in 2009, and you won't see a guy worthy of a fantasy roster spot. Not in today's TE-happy NFL.
2012 Projection: 50 catches, 600 yards, 3 TD