Camp Notes, Volume 14: Pittsburgh Steelers

Curtis Patrick

Dynasty fantasy football is our beloved stripped-down approximation of the NFL. We are the head coaches and general managers of our teams, choosing who stays or goes, and who plays or sits. NFL Training Camps are perhaps the best opportunity we have on the dynasty calendar to project how useful our assets will be in the coming season, particularly when it comes to managing the bottom third of our roster. The better you know the rosters of every NFL team, the more prepared you’ll be to execute the corresponding dynasty moves when camp news breaks. I’m mining all the beat reports, team websites, and post-practice press conferences to bring you a comprehensive overview of what’s going on this summer in all 32 training camps.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Our 14th stop on the 2017 DLF Training Camp Tour is with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have continued to invest in offensive weapons and remain a very interesting team for fantasy targets. If a player is starting in this offense, you want him on your team(s).

In 2016, the Steelers were tenth in points scored, fifth in passing yards, and fourth in passing touchdowns. They also finished above the league average in every rushing category, despite not having their star running back for the first four games of the season.

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Pittsburgh Steelers rookies and veterans reported on July 27.

Ben Roethlisberger did the retirement dance once again in the off-season, but showed up to camp on time. He’s a good bet to outperform his dynasty positional rank of QB14 this year, thanks to his strong wide receiver stable (more on that below), but he’s tough to love in our format due to the uncertainty about his future. It would not surprise me if he did retire before Tom Brady or Drew Brees. The team sorely needed an upgrade and long-term project at the position, and they found one in Joshua Dobbs. Dobbs has had an up and down preseason (22/41, 194, 1TD, 3 INT), but his scrambling ability makes him an intriguing player to watch for the future.

Le’Veon Bell has still not reported to camp. He is expected to play in week one, however without having worked with team at all, it is unclear how much volume will be thrown his way initially. The team has been pushing rookie James Conner hard and he’s responded well, rushing for 124 yards on 20 carries in two preseason games. He does not have the receiving acumen of Bell and would definitely not produce at similar level if he does start for any period of time. However, he’s shown enough to already be worth more than his third-round rookie ADP from earlier in the summer. Bell has played 16 games only once in his four seasons, so Conner is one of the more appealing handcuffs to own in dynasty.

Antonio Brown is in the middle of his prime and will be among the league leaders in fantasy scoring once again. The story in the Steel City is the return of Martavis Bryant. The young star in the making was reinstated earlier this month and looks to reprise his role as the dynamic complement to Brown. This time around, he’s bigger, stronger, and has spent time honing his skills with the legendary Randy Moss. Bryant is not a dynasty investment for the faint of heart, but he’s an asset that almost certainly returns more value than expected based on investment.

Juju Smith-Schuster enters as a 20-year-old rookie and will be buried at WR3 (at best) for a season or two. His value will fall during the season, making him a prime buy-low candidate in the off-season. He’s looked good against the backups this preseason, posting a 4/35/0 receiving line to go with one carry for nine yards on the ground.

The Steelers made waves earlier this week at the tight end position, trading for 49ers starter Vance McDonald. The team had yet to find a viable long-term solution at the position following the failed Ladarius Green experiment, but may have finally found one in McDonald. The former second round pick scored two touchdowns of longer than 65 yards last season and appeared to be headed for a breakout prior to a season-disrupting injury. He doesn’t figure to garner significant target share in a crowded Pittsburgh offense, but will be an imposing red zone threat and probably have a few boom games.

Jesse James is no longer the entrenched starter and will have to fend off the newcomer for snaps. He’s averaging five yards per reception this preseason and has a few bad drops to boot. The Steelers fed 92 targets to tight ends last season and saw what James did with his 60. I strongly believe McDonald passes him on the depth chart early in the season.

Possible Cuts (among dynasty relevant players): none

Projected ADP Risers

Players Who Will Rise 1 or more rounds in startup ADP by the end of the 2017 Season: Vance McDonald, James Conner, Martavis Bryant

Projected ADP Fallers

Players Who Will Fall 1 or more rounds in startup ADP by the end of the 2017 Season: Juju Smith-Schuster, Jesse James

Waiver Wire Watch List (players with ADP >240): Joshua Dobbs, Vance McDonald