The Pittsburg Steelers won their 6th Super Bowl title and 2nd in 4 years in 2008 by defeating the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 in a heartstopping classic. Ben Roethlisberger rebounded from his poor showing a couple years earlier against Seattle by completing 21-30 passes for 256 yards and the game winning TD to Santonio Holmes with just seconds left. Although the Steelers capped their impressive season by winning the Super Bowl they were an inconsistent bunch all year long in terms of fantasy performance. With pretty much the entire team returning this year will the Steelers offer fantasy owners more week to week options heading into 2009? I examine that now.
As good as the ultimate result was for Roethlisberger and the Steelers last year the QB proved to be a nightmare for owners last year with his inconsistent play. Roethlisberger finished2008 with 3314 passing yards along with 17 TD’s and 15 Int’s for a rating of 80.2. Not exactly the type of numbers you are looking for out of your number 1 QB. The bottom line is that Pittsburg is, was, and will always be a power running team and quite frankly when Ben is asked to throw a lot he usually gets himself into trouble. Ben is a very good QB just not a good fantasy QB. He possesses great leadership skills and has his statistical moments but do not trust him with your fantasy team because you will be greatly disappointed. Ben actually went in the 3rd round in my draft last summer and the owner who selected him won 2 games all year. Owners seem to be getting the point as Roethlisberger has been going around the 9th-10th rounds in the mock drafts I have been participating in. Treat him as a serviceable number 2 options heading into 2009 but nothing more than that. There are far better options.
When successful the meat and potatoes of the Steeler offense lies with the running game. Last year the team’s backfield was hit with numerous injuries leaving Head Coach Mike Tomlin painfully thin at the position. Once again Willie Parker failed to make it through the entire season missing 5 games and finishing the season with 791 yards and 5 TD’s. Parker has only played 16 games once in his career and he will turn 29 about halfway through the season. When healthy Parker is definitely a number 1 option at RB but when is he ever healthy? Furthermore, the Steelers will certainly be looking for 2nd year back Rashard Mendenhall to make much more of an impact in his sophomore season after playing in only 4 games as a rookie. The Steelers are extremely high on Mendenhall who is built more in the mode of what a typical Pittsburg back usually looks like. At 5-10 225 Mendenhall is a power runner who will inevitably steal short yardage and goal line carries from Parker who has never really been a TD machine to begin with. With both Parker and Mendenhall both out of commission the Steelers emergency plan actually stepped in and played fairly well. Mewelde Moore rushed for 589 yards and 5 TD’s down the stretch run while also chipping in with 320 yards receiving and another score. The ex Minnesota Vikings castoff proved more than capable of holding the fort down while Parker was readying himself for the playoffs. In terms of fantasy potential I like Mendenhall the most out of all the Steelers RB’s for the upcoming season. It will be a miracle if Parker stays healthy the entire year and even if he does Mendehall will be the goal line back at the very least. That being said treat Parker as a low end number 3 fantasy RB heading into the season. Mendenhall is far more interesting because if (when) Parker goes down he will have a real opportunity to become a stud due to his talents and the system he plays in. Mendenhall has been going between the 8th-10th rounds in the mock drafts I have been doing and spending a late round selection on him could prove to be a treasure for you as the season goes on. With Mendenhall back in the fold Moore’s value goes down dramatically and he has typically not been drafted in these preliminary mock drafts.
Similarly to Roethlisberger the Steelers receiving corps has it’s moments but in my estimation provides fantasy owners with nothing more than stop gap/match-up options on a very limited basis. Although showing definite signs of slowing down Hines Ward continues to be the Steelers number 1 option through the air. Ward remains a cagey veteran who is almost as well known for his blocking skills as he is at catching the ball. Ward had a really nice ’08 statistically accounting for 82 catches for 1047 yards and 7 TD’s. The 1047 yards represents his best yardage total since he went for 1163 in 2003. Ward will continue to be the receiver that Roethlisberger will look for when he is in a pinch or when the Steelers need a clutch catch. After you grab your first 3 receivers Ward is a nice option for you to have on your bench who is worthy of playing time depending upon who Pittsburg is playing. Super Bowl hero Holmes will be the Steelers number 2 option come opening day. Holmes caught 55 balls for 821 yards and 5 TD’s in 2008 and with Nate Washington leaving for Tennessee should see more balls thrown his way. Holmes has much more big play ability than Ward does at this stage of their careers and thus Holmes is more valuable in fantasy terms especially if your league awards bonuses for long TD’s as mine does. Treat Holmes as a nice number 3 WR or Flex option come draft day this August. The only other Steeler receiver that is worth a look is 2nd year pro Limas Sweed. Sweed had a rather forgettable rookie campaign catching only 6 balls for 64 yards and failed to reach the end zone. Pittsburg has big plans for Sweed and he is the big target the team has been yearning for since the departure of Plaxico Burress. Sweed has some real sleeper potential heading into ’09 and is worthy of a late round pick. If he happens to not get drafted in your league be sure to snag him off the waiver wire if you get a chance and let the chips fall where they may. Keep and eye on him. TE Heath Miller is really not a number 1 option and although at times Ben will look for him in the Red Zone he is not really utilized enough to be anything more than a backup used only in emergency purposes.
The Steelers DST is always a solid unit and if you play in a league like mine that rewards DST’s with enormous point totals that can greatly assist your chances of winning a championship. I know full well what a good DST can do as I rode the Eagles DST to a title last year. With Troy Polamalu and James Harrison continuing to anchor down the defence treat the Steelers DST as an elite unit and one of the top 3 DST’s on the board this summer. Well, that is it for the champs. Next up: The Cincinnati Bengals.