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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Pittsburgh Steelers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Steelers rolled their way to Super Bowl XLV last season but came up short against the Packers. Now they're facing some tough history because of it: Only three of the last 10 Super Bowl losing teams made the playoffs the following year.

Similar history exists for skill-position players on losing Super Bowl teams, but only one of the Steelers' stars might run into trouble (read on). All of them, however, should return to the roles in which they finished last season -- Pittsburgh added nothing more than offensive line and defensive talent through the draft. That should make Fantasy owners comfortable in drafting Steelers players since they're already established in the team's system and won't have to learn a new playbook. That's a huge benefit considering that teams with new talent haven't been allowed to work with them on learning something new.

It's also been a headache-free offseason for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger isn't headed for a four-game suspension like last season, no significant players are at risk to miss the start of the season and there are no huge coaching changes. Save for Hines Ward's championship run on Dancing With The Stars, it's been a very quiet offseason for the AFC champs.

And that's exactly how they like it.

Bust ... Rashard Mendenhall, RB

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value
Quarterbacks
Ben Roethlisberger
Running Backs
Rashard Mendenhall
Isaac Redman
Wide Receivers
Mike Wallace
Hines Ward
Emmanuel Sanders
Antonio Brown
Tight Ends
Heath Miller
Kickers/Defense
Shaun Suisham
Steelers DST

Mendenhall is coming off his best season as a pro. He's become a staple in the Steelers offense, he doesn't share the ball a whole lot and has a very nice schedule awaiting him in 2011. So why in blue blazes is he a bust candidate? Check out the history of running backs following a Super Bowl run. It's not pretty, mostly because rushers take on a lot of work in those seasons and break down the following year. In Mendenhall's case, he logged a league-high 412 touches including 385 carries on the ground between Week 1 and the Super Bowl, so he put a lot of miles on his odometer. He also had several of his big games without Ben Roethlisberger throwing all over the place in the early part of the year, something that's not expected to happen in 2011. The Steelers' offensive line wasn't upgraded much this offseason, either. If you're going to take Mendenhall, don't do it until Round 2 at the earliest, and make it a high priority to back him up with whoever ends up No. 2 on the depth chart in Pittsburgh.

Late-round flier ... Isaac Redman, RB

Our hunch is that Redman will retain the backup role behind Mendenhall ahead of backs like Mewelde Moore and Jonathan Dwyer. If our philosophy on starting running backs breaking down after a Super Bowl run holds true, then Redman should be in line to see a lot of work. Any coach in Pittsburgh will tell you that Redman's come a long way since entering as an undrafted free agent in 2009, averaging a stunning 4.8 yards per rush last year and scoring his first NFL touchdown on a reception, not a goal-line plunge. If you draft Mendenhall, you should get Redman too, but even if you don't draft Mendenhall it's not a bad idea to spend a late pick on Redman and hang on to him for a couple of weeks to see what kind of impact he'll have.

Sleeper ... Emmanuel Sanders, WR

This is a close call between Sanders and fellow second-year rookie Antonio Brown -- both might actually make an impact this season -- but Sanders is the safer choice. And that's saying something considering he's coming off of surgery on both of his feet and has been doing rehab work for much of the offseason. But Sanders has been proactive in planning player-only workouts, a sign that he's gung ho on keeping a sizable role in the offense. As a third receiver on the field with Mike Wallace and Hines Ward, Sanders would see single coverage and could pick off some deep passes (assuming that speed is there). Sanders won't put in as much special-teams work as Brown, so he's likely to catch more balls than him, which he did as a rookie last year.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@BAL SEA @IND @HOU TEN JAC @ARI NE BAL @CIN bye @KC CIN CLE @SF STL @CLE

The only reason why the Steelers' schedule isn't quite as much of a gem as the Ravens, Browns and Bengals is because they'll play two first-place teams from last season -- the Patriots and Chiefs. The Pats typically give the Steelers trouble, but the Chiefs game shouldn't be a hassle despite being played in Kansas City. Otherwise there's very little to dislike about the dance card of the Black & Gold. Playing two NFC West teams and Cleveland twice in the last four weeks (including once in Week 17) is a gift from Roger Goodell.

Training camp topics

2010 Touches Leaders
* includes postseason
Player Touches
Rashard Mendenhall 412
Mike Wallace 80
Hines Ward 72
Isaac Redman 68

How much longer can Hines Ward play? Statistically speaking he had his worst season in a decade in 2010 and many feel he's losing his ability to work at a high level. Ward will tell you he played with injuries (including a broken thumb), which might explain why he caught only 59 of the 94 passes tossed his way. Chances are he can perk up his stats a little bit, but Father Time might start having his way with the 35-year-old. He'll likely rest periodically during training camp but should be OK for the start of the year.

But then there's Mike Wallace, who has every single intangible you want going for your receiver if you're thinking Fantasy. Wallace is entering his third year (typically when receivers begin to hit their peak) and will be a restricted free agent after the season. Motivation will be high for him to land a big contract tender, if not a lucrative extension. He's also got a great schedule and is easily the most threatening receiver in the Steelers' offense. Assuming he doesn't go through any troubles in camp, Wallace has the makings of a major Fantasy stat producer in 2011.

But the guy we've heard the least from this offseason is Ben Roethlisberger. A year ago his life was turned upside down as he dealt with off-the-field allegations stemming from his alleged behavior. A four-game suspension followed, but then he played well by throwing for 3,200 yards and 17 touchdowns with just five interceptions over 12 starts. Since the Steelers became more pass oriented, Big Ben's averaged more than 275 passing yards per game and has a sick touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2.53 to 1. That's tough to overlook, especially considering that he, too, has played behind a rag-tag offensive line. Throw in that pretty schedule and Roethlisberger is not a bad choice for Fantasy usage at all given where you'll find him on Draft Day. His camp should be sterling.

What about the Steelers' defense? After getting slayed by the Packers in the Super Bowl, the unit is expected to come back healthier and deeper on the defensive line thanks to first-round pick Cameron Heyward. But the secondary will get tested if free-agent cornerback Ike Taylor isn't re-signed. The Steelers added depth there via the draft but a veteran addition is likely in the works. Even with the front seven blitzing like crazy, opposing offenses will attack the secondary if there's weakness there because they know there won't be much weakness in the run defense. Additionally, the health of Troy Polamalu should be monitored as he played hurt in the postseason and was ineffective.

Injury update

Hines Ward (knee, thumb; probable for the start of training camp) ... Troy Polamalu (Achilles'; probable for the start of training camp) ... Emmanuel Sanders (feet; probable for the start of training camp).

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
Richard Sherman cries Deflategate in Madden game vs. Shane Vereen
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:13 am ET)

Richard Sherman will not go down easily in a game of Madden.  (Getty Images)
Richard Sherman will not go down easily in a game of Madden. (Getty Images)

Patriots running back Shane Vereen took down Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman in a game of Madden NFL 15 at the Phoenix Convention Center this week, 14-0. As you can imagine, Sherman didn't take his drubbing lightly.

After Xbox Tom Brady hooked up with Julian Edelman for the game's first score, Sherman cried Ballghazi, per the Boston Globe.

"Check the football, ref." Sherman said.

Ah, the good old "the game is cheating" excuse. Good one, Sherman. If you've played Madden before, I'm sure you've heard opponents use that excuse all the time. He'll have to ask EA Sports to launch an investigation to see if the virtual footballs were properly inflated.

As you've noticed from all the media sessions, Sherman has not backed away from the Deflategate scandal surrounding the Patriots. On Sunday, he said the Patriots won't be disciplined by the NFL for because of owner Robert Kraft's relationship with commissioner Roger Goodell. Kraft struck back at Sherman calling the Madden coverboy a "marketing whiz."

Oh, he and Russell Wilson also did the salsa with a female reporter at Media Day. Fun times for Sherman leading up to Sunday's big game.

In case you were curious to see highlights of that game, some Brazilians dudes for ESPN.com.br narrated the game in Portuguese on YouTube.

Vereen's video game victory falls in favor of EA Sports' Super Bowl 49 simulation, which was released Monday morning. Like Vereen, the simulation had Brady connecting with Julian Edelman for a touchdown pass to clinch a 28-24 win. How accurate are Madden's Super Bowl predictions, you ask? The simulator is 8-3 in predicting the correct winner since 2004.


Pats QB Tom Brady fighting a cold
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who's been battling a cold for nearly a week, said he expects to be fine for Super Bowl 49 on Sunday. Brady sniffled often during his news conference Wednesday.

The Patriots are 1-point favorites over Seattle after opening as 2.5-point underdogs.


Raiders not expected to re-sign RB Darren McFadden
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) With expectations sky-high for Latavius Murray in 2015, the Raiders aren't expected to re-sign impending free agent running back Darren McFadden, reports CSNBayArea.com. McFadden, 27, averaged 3.4 yards per carry this season and has not had a good year since 2011.

Oakland also is expected to part ways with 29-year-oold running back Maurice Jones-Drew, saving the team $2.5 million.

Murray, 25, averaged 5.2 yards on his 82 carries and will enter next season as the starter.


Bengals could bring back TE Jermaine Gresham
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham is headed for unrestricted free agency after five years with Cincinnati. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson indicated the team has not moved on from Gresham.

"To me, there's a place for him," Jackson said, via ESPN.com. "But again, he's free, so that's going to work itself out for him however it works itself out."

Gresham caught 62 passes for 460 yards and five touchdowns, but he fumbled three times and missed two key late-season games with injuries.


Report: Warrant issued for Ravens S Will Hill
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) New Jersey law-enforcement officials confirmed there is an active warrant out for Ravens safety Will Hill, for failure to pay child support, reports the Baltimore Sun. The amount owed is $16,588, the report said.

Hill played in 10 games this season, making 41 tackles and returning an interception for a touchdown.


Marshawn Lynch adds 'you know why I'm here' to his repertoire
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015)

Marshawn Lynch adds another catchphrase to his repertoire.  (Getty Images)
Marshawn Lynch adds another catchphrase to his repertoire. (Getty Images)

A new day, a new catchphrase.

Although Marshawn Lynch is avoiding fines by the league, the Seahawks running back took the podium again in front of a jam-packed room of reporters wearing the same Beast Mode cap that could hurt his pockets.

He set a timer on his phone to five minutes, and this time around, he answered every single question with "you know why I'm here." Lynch essentially repeated the same phrase 14 times, slightly altering his approach at times.

Once his phone alarm went off, Beast Mode exited the stage.

If we're keeping score, Lynch's greatest hits include, "yeah," "nope," "thanks for asking," "I'm thankful," "I'm here so I don't get fined," and now "you know why I'm here."

You can try all you want, but Lynch doesn't care about your questions, media members. Seattle fans are clearly behind Lynch, so much so that they recently started a petition for the NFL to revise its media policy and stop "bullying" Lynch out of his money. Even the GM kind of loves what Beast Mode does. If you want him to talk, have him in a controlled environment doing commercials.  

Lynch has an odd relationship with the media, and he'll get to come up with another catchphrase at Thursday's league-mandated session at the Seahawks' resort hotel.

Any suggestions for his next act?


Bills RB Anthony Dixon recovering from knee surgery
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Bills running back Anthony Dixon tweeted a photo of himself indicating he underwent surgery to fix a torn meniscus in his knee, reports ESPN.com. Dixon ran for 432 yards and two touchdowns last season, averaging 4.1 yards per carry.

Raiders not expected to re-sign DT Pat Sims
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Raiders defensive tackle Pat Sims saw his playing time decrease in 2014, and the team is unlikely to re-sign him, reports ESPN.com. Sims played 37 percent of the defensive snaps and finished with 25 tackles and no sacks.

Sims, 29, spent the past two seasons with Oakland after a five-year run in Cincinnati.


Packers not expected to make offer to WR Jarrett Boykin
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Packers wideout Jarrett Boykin is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and it's unlikely the team even makes him an offer, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Boykin lost the No. 3 receiver job this season to rookie Davante Adams, who outperformed any Packers rookie wideout since James Jones in 2007.

Boykin finished the year with the same number of catches as drops, three, the paper noted.

If Randall Cobb re-signs with Green Bay, the Packers will enter 2015 with Jordy Nelson, Cobb and Adams as their three primary wideouts.


Jaguars MLB Paul Posluszny says he'll be 100 percent for OTAs
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, who tore his pectoral muscle and missed the last nine weeks of the season, told the team's website he's recovering well from surgery and will be 100 percent for the offseason program starting in mid-April.

"That shouldn't be an issue for us," he said.

Posluszny posted six straight years of 100-plus tackles until making 69 in seven games this season.


 
 
 
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