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Fantasy Football Breakouts, Busts, and Locks - Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 Outlook

Najee Harris - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

Welcome back to fantasy football Breakouts, Busts, and Locks, a series on RotoBaller where our writers look at three key players on each NFL team. Today, we're talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers.

First, let’s clear the air. I am a devout Steelers fan. That doesn’t mean I can’t be objective, although I am more hopeful than most.

As far as breakouts, busts, and locks go, let’s clinically dissect this year’s Pittsburgh Steelers offense.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!


Fantasy Football Breakout: Mitchell Trubisky

While it is true the Steelers shot their wad and picked quarterback Kenny Pickett 20th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft (more on that later), this does not preclude Trubisky from being the one under center this season.

Trubisky, the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, has had a tumultuous career.  The question then becomes was it talent or environment (yes, I am looking at you, Matt Nagy). Here is Windy City Gridiron Josh Sunderbruch's assessment of Trubisky and his Chicago tenure by Jeff Hartman:

More than half of his [Trubisky] struggles were due to forces outside of his control. He was given one of the worst receiver corps in the league in 2017, and he never really had a chance to settle into a consistent offense after that time.  [Matt] Nagy’s inability to adapt the scheme to the quarterback is consistent – I mean, at some point if the system fails with multiple starting quarterbacks, it’s not the player, it's the coach.

[Trubisky] was not a finished product when he came to Chicago, and he never showed a grasp for nuanced football.  He couldn’t make reads, and he struggled at times with playing hero ball.  He does not have “elite QB” talent.  He has “good QB talent” and he tries to play like he’s better than he is.

Now, I’m not predicting that Trubisky will be a superstar, only that his breakout performance will outplay his 14.05 ADP (on fantasyfootballcalculator.com) and play better than QB21 (his best on fantasypros.com).

Trubisky has wide receivers Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, tight end Pat Freiermuth, and running back Najee Harris at his disposal.  This is his best arsenal since he got in the league, which incidentally will be good for Trubisky but may not be that great for his weapons.

Last season with the same weapons, Ben Roethlisberger ended the season QB21. Roethlisberger had 6.2 yards per attempt (30th), 6.7 air yards per attempt (32nd), 7.5 accuracy rating (22nd), and 14.3 fantasy points per game (23rd), all stats thanks to playerprofiler.com.

Not saying that Trubisky is Roethlisberger, but his stats are comparable to last season’s Roethlisberger even in Trubisky’s “bad years.” In 2020, Trubisky played 10 games, he averaged 6.9 yards per attempt (24th), 7.7 air yards per attempt (21st), 7.0 accuracy rating (31st), and 16.2 fantasy points per game (24th) with much inferior weapons (no disrespect to Allen Robinson).

Yes, Trubisky has trouble reading defenses, and okay there are questions about his accuracy. And then there is their subpar offensive line (whose blemishes were slightly nullified by the fact that their quarterback last season had the quickest release time of any quarterback 2.37 seconds) is ranked 30th by Pro Football Focus.

Trubisky is more athletic than Roethlisberger and can be considered a dual-threat quarterback, which will fit better in Matt Canada’s system. For his career, he has 203 rushing attempts for 1081 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns (no he isn’t Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray) but he is a dual-threat which raises his fantasy ceiling.

You aren’t going to go wild and draft him for your QB1 in single quarterback redraft leagues…but there is a very good…nay an excellent possibility that he will outplay the QB29 ranking he has in NFFC (National Football Fantasy Championship).


Fantasy Football Bust: Kenny Pickett

I believe it is my time to reiterate that a bust in this instance does not mean he flames out completely. It just means he will not live up to the preseason hype or the Pittsburgh Steelers draft capital hype.

When you are a quarterback drafted in the first round on a team that lost the only man who has started for the franchise since 2004, then you are expected to start. Not only start but (unless your name is Patrick Mahomes) start well.

And then there are the Vegas odds for Offensive Rookie of the Year.


Kenny Pickett +500
Drake London +700
Treylon Burks +750
Breece Hall +800
Christian Watson +850
Garrett Wilson +1000
Chris Olave +1000

Pickett may very well be the best quarterback in a subpar quarterback class, but he is currently taking third-team reps exclusively. Not a worry for the dynasty players, but for redraft, it could be an issue.

Then there is the fact that for four years at the University of Pittsburgh, Pickett’s play was meh. He never had a season with a completion percentage higher than 61.6%, average yards per attempt peaked at 7.7, and he did not pass for more than 13 touchdowns in a season. Then in 2021, his completion rate rose to 67.2%, he averaged 8.7 yards per attempt and passed for 42 touchdowns. If he is a slow starter, then sitting a year is just the thing for him and our fantasy teams.

The Steelers do not appear in any hurry to make Pickett the starter. That sentence assumes that Pickett will beat out Trubisky for the starting position, which right now doesn’t seem likely. What about dynasty you ask? Stay tuned.


Fantasy Football Lock: Najee Harris

There is no such thing as a “sure thing” in life or fantasy football, but Harris in the backfield of the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers seems pretty damn close.

Last season, Harris finished as RB3 in fantasy football. He was second in rushes (307), first in targets (94), first in receptions (74), and fourth in rushing yards (1200). True, he averaged a disappointing 3.91 yards per carry and he was 28th in breakaway runs, having them on only 3.9% of his rush attempts. In this case, volume is king.

Harris’ has a current ADP of 6. Per Fantasy Pros, he is currently the fifth running back off the board two behind Christian McCaffrey, one behind Derrick Henry, and just above Dalvin Cook.

Harris will have a new quarterback under center this season, probably Trubisky but maybe Pickett. Either way, you aren’t worrying about that pesky running-back-by-committee with Harris. As head coach Tomlin recently stated on The Pivot podcast, Harris is the man in the backfield.

FantasyPros.com ranks the Steelers’ running backs strength of schedule as the 14th hardest schedule. That’s mid-range and something Harris can maneuver.

A new quarterback who will need to rely on the run game. A running back who thrives on volume. There is the narrative going around that the Steelers intend to “lessen his workload in Year 2”.  And then there is running backs coach Eddie Faulkner who realizes this may not be feasible, “To be honest, and people think I am crazy when I say this, but he’s just built for it. I am not saying just physically how he is built, but how he trains. He trains to play a lot of plays in a game.”

Forget the mumbling and the coach speak, both Harris’ ceiling and floor are high. His 94 targets and 14.5% target share may dip slightly, and his 84.5% snap share could decrease, but currently, in Pittsburgh, he is the only game in town in the backfield (no disrespect to Benny Snell Jr. or Anthony McFarland Jr.), and barring injury, that is tantamount to a fantasy lock.

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