Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:


Already have an account? Log in here.


Forgot Password


Assessing the Steelers Without Big Ben

For the Steelers and no less for many fantasy GMs, Week 2 was a nightmare scenario. We all know that football is a contact sport, and we should know injuries can be just at the turn of the next corner, but they are never easy to accept nonetheless.

Ben Roethlisberger was noticeably wincing in pain after several throws before leaving the game against Seattle at halftime, never to come back. Just a few hours later, we found out Big Ben will miss the rest of the season after undergoing elbow surgery on his throwing arm. In the blink of an eye, his season is over and second-year QB Mason Rudolph is left to lead one of the top offenses in the league.

It's a tough blow for Roethlisberger and the Steelers first and foremost. From a fantasy perspective, what does it mean for the other Steelers players? It's time to take a look at the Pittsburgh offense and assess how this injury will impact the different players that are part of this group going forward.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!


QB Mason Rudolph

Just one week after trading Joshua Dobbs away to Jacksonville, Roethlisberger went down injured. Luckily for the Steelers, they still had a viable option active in Mason Rudolph, who they valued more than Dobbs as they opted to keep the former Oklahoma State star and 2018 draftee.

In his first professional game backing up Roethlisberger against Seattle, he completed 12-of-19 passes for 112 yards, with two touchdowns (both to TE Vance McDonald) and one interception (on a pass intended for Donte Moncrief that was batted in the air). That wasn't the best but neither the worst performance ever, on limited playing time.

Fantasy Impact: Pittsburgh's third-string QB is now Devlin Hodges. He wasn't even part of the Steelers 53-man roster, so he is no threat at all for Rudolph's playing time going forward. Rudolph wasn't an option even in 2QB or deep leagues, but now he's the QB1 of Pittsburgh and a decent streaming option at the position on weeks where the matchup calls for it. He's no Big Ben though, so don't expect similar production.


WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Donte Moncrief

The meat and potatoes of the fantasy world, the WR position--and the RB one that I'll tackle next--is the one that will be hit the hardest by Roethlisberger's injury. Losing a future Hall of Famer and flipping him for a backup QB is definitely a downgrade any way you slice it.

Smith-Schuster had not had the worst start of a season ever, but he hasn't been able to put together a 14-plus PPR performance yet (he had 11 of them in 2018, three to start the season). Washington has been targeted nine times in two games, catching four passes for 73 yards. Moncrief has been mediocre since joining the Steelers, starting the season with a 3.7 PPR mark and following it with a big old zero.

Fantasy Impact: After finding out the news of Roethlisberger's injury, every single owner of a Steelers receiver should have automatically lowered his expectations of what they can provide during the rest of the season. A tough start for all the three players aforementioned didn't look good, and it does less so now.

There is no reason to drop a now high-end WR2 in Smith-Schuster. He will keep being the go-to option for Rudolph the same as he was with Roethlisberger at the helm. Washington's and Moncrief's cases could be more troubling going forward. Inexperienced quarterbacks and backups forced to start without notice tend to rely on safe options. At this point, none of those two players can be considered as such.

While Roethlisberger targeted Washington three times before leaving the game on Sunday, Rudolph only did once, although their rapport should be there from the get-go as they were teammates in OSU. Moncrief already helped Rudolph make the history books, dropping his lone target and helping the Seahawks picking that ball for an interception.

My advice would be to hold on to JuJu and just find better options at the WR3/FLEX positions through the waiver wire, dropping both Washington and Moncrief. They were already borderline roster options, and there is no reason to keep them in your team going forward.


RB James Conner

While Conner himself also finished the game against the Seahawks injured (knee), it looks like he will be back by Week 3 without missing playing time. Had he gone down for as long as Roethlisberger, we could be talking about a drop-everyone situation around the Steelers in fantasy terms. Luckily for you, that is not the case.

With Jaylen Samuels remaining the backup and Benny Snell getting just one carry last week, Conner will be the main ball carrier of the team and the second player most relied on with Rudolph managing the attack. It's a two-man offense now between the WR-RB pair of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Conner.

Fantasy Impact: As with wide receivers, newbie-quarterbacks tend to go the safe route when it comes to running backs. That means they hand the ball off to them and don't look for too tough tasks to complete such as connecting with them through passes. Last year, James Conner finished with the 14th-most targets among RBs with 71, catching 55 of them for 497 yards. That is some serious production (even more in PPR leagues), but it is also far from that of other rushers much more used on the passing game such as Christian McCaffrey or James White. Keep in mind, also, that Roethlisberger led the NFL in pass attempts last season, boosting Conner numbers in that department.

James Conner remains a low-end RB2 at the very least and someone to put in the RB2/FLEX spot every week on his pure ability. The problem he'll face is that defenses might not fear Rudolph enough as to pay heavy attention to the wideouts, focusing on the running game. Conner's performance will feel the hit, but maybe the situation helps as he gets more touches on the ground as a good safety valve for Rudolph. We'll see if HC Mike Tomlin adapts the heavy-run Steelers game to fit the situation, though.


TE Vance McDonald

Perhaps the least affected player by Roethlisberger's injury is McDonald. He should be the clear third option on offense now only behind JuJu and Conner, and tight ends are one of the most-dependable positions on the field to complete easy passes on short routes. Through Week 2, McDonald has already posted 28.8 PPR, good for fifth-best among tight ends, finishing this last weekend's game against Seattle with 22.8 points and TE1 production.

Fantasy Impact: In the two quarters he and Rudolph shared the field on Sunday, they connected for two touchdowns, on eight and three-yard passes. If this keeps up going forward (and there is no reason to think it won't), McDonald's fantasy value won't be impacted much if at all. McDonald's targets will most probably fluctuate between three and seven depending on the day and matchup, and his 69.4 catch rate from 2018 along his 8.5 Y/Tgt should be enough for him to keep piling 10.0-plus PPR performances for the rest of the season.

It is highly improbable that you can find McDonald for free on the waiver wire at this point (mostly because he should have been a late draft pick on draft day), but if he happens to be there he is a great option to stream the position or even hold onto as your TE1 even with Rudolph at the helm.

More Fantasy Football Analysis

More Recent Articles


FAAB Bidding - Week 11 Waiver Wire Targets

Assisting our famous waiver wire pickups list, and our weekly waiver wire columns by position, this column focuses on suggested waiver wire bidding percentages for fantasy football owners in leagues using a Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB). As a caveat, these prices do not by any means indicate how much these free agent players will... Read More

Week 11 Waiver Wire Pickups & Adds

It's crunch time, with precious few games left before the fantasy regular season ends. There aren't many new names emerging on the waiver wire at this juncture but the RB situations in Atlanta and Detroit bear watching, while the Jets passing game has shown signs of life. No, really. Each week, we will advise you... Read More

Deeper League Free Agent Pickups for Week 11

Rotoballers, if you're not active on the waiver wire this time of year, there are only two reasonable explanations: 1) You're sitting at 3-7 (or worse) and don't find it enjoyable to play spoiler to your league mates, or 2) You're 8-2 (or better) and have nothing but matchup-proof studs on your starting lineup and... Read More

Week 11 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Below are RotoBaller's Week 11 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 11 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh year now writing this weekly column. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver... Read More

Week 11 Kicker Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

It's Week 11, and we're getting closer and closer to the fantasy football playoffs. The consistent options are getting more and more clear, especially at the kicking position. We're also going to start dealing with everyone's favorite factor, which is inclement weather, especially up north. The margin for error in these weeks is slim, and... Read More

Week 10 Surprises? We Must Overreact Immediately!

In Week 10, Christian Kirk, Darius Slayton, Tyreek Hill, and Michael Thomas all had beatable cornerback matchups and finished as the top-four wide receivers in PPR scoring. At running back, Derrick Henry exploited a poor Chiefs run defense and rumbled for 188 yards and two touchdowns, finishing as the No. 1 running back on the week. Ronald... Read More

The Cut List - Players on the Chopping Block (Week 11)

This is your weekly list of players to drop. I will do my best to limit this list to injured players and players you might consider holding. If you roster pure handcuffs or backups, obviously you can let them go at any time. The players on this list will, ideally, be guys that aren't clearly... Read More

Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 11

The regular season continues to advance at a relentless pace as we have now entered the planning process for Week 11. Some of you are in the favorable position of only needing slight modifications to rosters that are destined to enter the fantasy playoffs. But many of you are still searching for the most effective... Read More

Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 11

Did you survive the terrible, no good, very bad six-team bye week? If so, welcome to the other side, when roster building gets slightly easier going forward. If not, I'm sorry, but you still have time to get things back on the right path. Let's talk about some wide receivers who might be able to... Read More

Week 11 Tight End Waiver Wire Picks and Streamers

If your fantasy football squad is still in the playoff hunt heading into Week 11, then congratulations on not being the Pat Shurmur or Freddie Kitchens of your league. Fantasy football players will have to live without New York’s Evan Engram, Green Bay’s Jimmy Graham and Tennessee’s Jonnu Smith as their teams are on bye.... Read More

Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 11

We've got plenty to unpack at the quarterback position following an exciting Week 10. While no major injuries occurred in game, the revelation of Matthew Stafford's back injury was quite a surprise and left some owners scrambling just before lineups locked. So the year of the backup continued this week, as 16 of the 32... Read More

Waiver Wire Express - Week 11 Lightning Round

With 10 weeks down and only a few more weeks of the fantasy regular season to go, your vision for the playoffs should be coming into focus. The Giants, Packers, Seahawks and Titans are on bye -- with the Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs and Vikings in Week 12 to round out the weekly vacations. To help... Read More

Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups List

Back by popular demand in 2019... RotoBaller has brought back for the NFL season our Ultimate 2019 Fantasy Football Sleepers and Waiver Wire Pickups List.  Be sure to also try our other lineup tools below. Using your phone? Be sure to also download our free app which includes news, notifications, injury alerts & articles.   Rankings WizardWeekly... Read More

Week 10 Start/Sit: Monday Night Football Matchups Analysis

We got a good one on Monday night folks. Both for the NFC West division and, more importantly, for fantasy. Two of the top teams in the NFL matchup at Levi's Stadium. We can finally find out if the 49ers are for real, or if they were just beating up on bad teams all season.... Read More

Week 10 Fantasy Football Staff Rankings

Below you will find all of RotoBaller's fantasy football weekly rankings, tiers, player news and stats for the 2019 NFL season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Weekly PPR Rankings Weekly Half-PPR Rankings Weekly Standard Rankings Dynasty League Rankings     Fantasy... Read More