As we inch closer to opening day of the NFL season, we want to get you prepared for your fantasy football drafts. That process begins with our team previews, where we’ll break down each team’s offense while providing players we’re targeting and, in some cases, avoiding.
Steelers Fantasy Football Team Preview
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (17th season as Steelers HC)
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Canada (third season as Steelers OC)
Key Offensive Additions:
Key Offensive Departures:
Key Offensive Rookies
Points Per Game: 18.1 (28th)
Passing Yards: 200.6 (24th)
Rushing Yards: 121.9 (16th)
Vacated Targets: 30 (31st)
Pass: 59 percent Run: 41 percent
OL Rank: 25th
Kenny Pickett had a meager 12.2 fantasy points per game in his rookie season, which was 31st among quarterbacks who played in at least eight games. When removing Pickett’s Week 14 game against the Baltimore Ravens, when he threw one pass and ran twice before exiting with an injury, that per-game figure jumps to 13.1, which would have been 28th among qualifying quarterbacks.
In Pickett’s 12 full games last season, he only surpassed 200 yards passing four times. That’s an obvious concern, though his 55 carries for 237 yards on the ground gives him some rushing upside. That figure would put Pickett in a rushing cluster with Patrick Mahomes, Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow and Russell Wilson.
We can reasonably expect Pickett to improve as a passer in his second season, though he’ll still be a matchups-based streaming option in most leagues. Pickett has more value in best ball and superflex formats.
Najee Harris led the NFL in touches as a rookie before struggling in Year 2 with injuries and ineffectiveness. After taking nearly every Steelers backfield touch, undrafted rookie Jaylen Warren mixed in just enough last season to neutralize Harris’ spike week potential — Harris topped 15 fantasy points just twice in 2022 after cresting that mark in 10 games as a rookie. Still, Harris finished 2022 with 313 touches (18.4 touches per game), the sixth-most among any player.
The offensive line should be improved, and Pickett should take a step forward in his sophomore campaign — both factors should result in heightened touchdown upside compared with last season. While Warren likely prevents Harris from reaching his 2021 heights, we should expect fantasy production that roughly splits the difference between 2021 and 2022 because Harris is a stable but unspectacular fantasy RB2 type. If anything happens to Warren, Harris should return to his rookie-year form, given the Steelers’ lack of backfield depth.
Warren is a high-priority handcuff for fantasy; he showed his all-purpose abilities with 77 carries and 33 targets in relief of Harris. While Warren was more efficient per touch, Harris was dealing with a foot injury. It’s not uncommon for backup runners to post strong efficiency on only a few touches per game. There is no realistic chance Warren unseats former first-round pick Harris for top dog in this backfield.
Wide Receivers, Tight Ends
The Steelers’ three wide receiver sets will feature Diontae Johnson, George Pickens and Allen Robinson. Johnson has been consistently targeted during the past three seasons, but he needs to build chemistry with Pickett. Johnson’s yards per route run and targets per route run decreased significantly when Pickett took over from Mitchell Trubisky, who opened the year as Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback.
Pickens has the talent to be a fantasy asset, but he needs to expand his route tree to become a more versatile receiver. Last season, he heavily relied on vertical routes, but with more diversity in his route tree, he could become a more significant threat in the offense.
Robinson's performance with the Rams was underwhelming, and it's difficult to expect a resurgence with the Steelers. While he brings experience, his impact may not be as significant as expected.
At tight end, Pat Freiermuth is a reliable option for redraft leagues this season. He will get some slot work when the team runs two-tight end formations alongside rookie Darnell Washington. Freiermuth showed promise with Pickett, leading the team in targets per route run.
Ian Miller: Buy Diontae Johnson (WR36)
Johnson joins Justin Jefferson, A.J. Brown, Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp and DJ Moore as the only wide receivers to post at least a 25 percent target share in each of the past two seasons. While Johnson hasn’t had the same efficiency, it’s unlikely he will get as unlucky with his touchdown rate in 2023. We’re just a year removed from him posting 17 points per game with a washed-up Ben Roethlisberger.
Steelers We’re Targeting or Avoiding in Fantasy Football
Josh Larky: Target Johnson, Freiermuth; avoid Pickens
Ryan Reynolds: Target Freiermuth
Jordan Vanek: Target Freiermuth
Other Fantasy Previews
AFC South: JAX
Follow our team on Twitter
Josh Larky: @JLarkyTweets
Ryan Reynolds: @RyanReynoldsNFL
Jordan Vanek: @JordanVanekDFS
Ian Miller: @Dynasty_IM