Pittsburgh Steelers July Scouting Report
Training camp is fast approaching. The Steelers report to St. Vincent College in Latrobe PA on July 27th. Their first preseason game is in the Meadowlands against the Giants on August 11th. The two biggest stories for the Steelers as the season, fantasy drafts approach are RB LeVeon Bell and WR Martavis Bryant for decidedly different reasons. Bell could not come to a contract agreement so will play on the $12M franchise tender. He has yet to sign and is fully expected to wait until late August to join the team. To be honest there should be no fantasy impact barring something unforeseen, Bell is likely to actually benefit from rest over reps in the summer. Bryant has been getting rave reviews in his return from a full season suspension due to multiple failed tests for marijuana. Has he really rededicated himself to football? If he has the offense should be impossible to stop.
The Steelers lost in Foxborough last season in the AFC Championship game. They have double digit wins in each of the last three seasons and in seven of Mike Tomlin's ten years as the head coach. Only four teams heading into the season have an easier strength of schedule with division rivals the Ravens and especially Bengals seemingly entering down periods in their team development cycles. The strength remains a big play offense as the defense continues to be retooled with youth.
QB: Injuries cost QB Ben Roethlisberger a pair of games last season and four the year before. He isn't getting any younger having turned 35 in early March. A more severe injury to Roethlisberger is the one thing that could derail the season, which I guess could be said for most starting quarterbacks. Backup QB Landry Jones lacks upside, explosiveness. The receivers take a major hit when he plays. Bell would not be affected.
RB: The offensive line returns intact. They are one of the top groups in the league. Bell has only played a single full season back in '14 in four years in the league due to injuries and suspensions. For all the talk of tread off the tire he is 25, started a single full season in East Lansing and has actually only played 18 games in the last two years. His upside as the top pick should he stay on the field for 16 games is arguably higher than RB David Johnson, his only real competition for the pick. Rookie RB James Conner should get plenty of opportunities in the preseason. He has a chance to be a clear handcuff to Bell.
WR: Competition from WR Martavis Bryant and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster should not really affect WR Antonio Brown. Brown has led all receivers in PPR leagues in scoring for each of the last three seasons. He has been nearly as good in non-PPR leagues. Brown should be the third total pick and top receiver on most draftt boards. Weirdly enough despite the volume Brown seems to make the other receivers around him better. Bryant is a big play waiting to happen that can win a fantasy week on his own. His presence actually puts Roethlisberger in the same category. All reports have been positive on his attempt to turn his career and life around. He is an incredible third fantasy receiver with explosive upside if he can stay on the field. WR Eli Rogers is currently penciled in as the slot receiver. Hard not to envision him losing playing quickly to Smith-Schuster.
TE: A wait and see approach makes sense for TE Jesse James and TE Xavier Grimble. James is no more than a flier in even the deepest league.
K: Wait on PK Chris Boswell. If you don't take a kicker til late then Boswell could be a worthy replacement if your kicker under performs and things break better for Boswell than last year. Boswell will at least be worth a look as a bye fill in.
DEF/ST: Day one or two picks in the last three years have been spent on NT Javone Hargrave, OLB TJ Watt, OLB Bud Dupree, CB Artie Burns, S Sean Davis and CB Cameron Sutton. DE Cameron Heyward, DE Stephon Tuitt and ILB Ryan Shazier add to the young core of the defense. While not yet ready for fantasy prime time the talent is starting to take shape. The defense is at least on the radar as a streaming option in good matchups.
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