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Offseason Primers: Pittsburgh Steelers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Despite having one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in the league and one of the most revered defenses in the league, the Steelers appear to be on the brink of a rebuilding year.

After going 6-3 to begin last season, the Steelers hit a rough patch in their schedule while losing Ben Roethlisberger to rib and shoulder injuries for three weeks. It sent the season into a tailspin and an 8-8 finish. That was followed by some salary cap-induced roster purges, leaving the team unable and/or unwilling to retain veterans like James Harrison, Willie Colon, Keenan Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall and most notably Mike Wallace. Another key player -- tight end Heath Miller -- is questionable for the start of the season after tearing his knee up in Week 16 last year.

For the first time in a while it looks like the Steelers will have low expectations.

2012 Touches Leaders
766 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Jonathan Dwyer 174 (156 car., 18 rec.) 22.7%
Isaac Redman 129 (110 car., 19 rec.) 16.8%
Antonio Brown 73 (66 rec., 7 car.) 9.5%
Heath Miller 71 rec. 9.3%
Mike Wallace 69 (64 rec., 5 car.) 9.0%
Rashard Mendenhall 60 (51 car., 9 rec.) 7.8%
Emmanuel Sanders 45 (44 rec., 1 car.) 5.9%
All Others 145 19.0%

Perhaps this all started when the offense changed course before last season by replacing Bruce Arians with Todd Haley. Under Haley the offense averaged a clean 21.0 points per week but recorded over 24 points just three times. The run game, hindered by Mendenhall's recovery from a torn ACL suffered the January prior, recorded the second-fewest rush yards by a team since the NFL expanded to a 16-game season in 1978 with 1,537. A rookie in Washington had more rushing yards by himself.

While the team can find some help at running back, losing Wallace could prove to be a killer. Though many consider him to be less than a complete receiver, his game-breaking ability gave the Steelers an edge. Replacing someone as fast and as threatening as him will be tough. He had at least eight receiving touchdowns each of the last three years and over 1,100 receiving yards in two of those three seasons.

So far this offseason the team has done little to find help for its offense. As for the guy who Haley replaced, he helped lead the Colts to an improbable playoff run last year while earning Coach of the Year honors and has since moved on to run the Arizona Cardinals' ship. The Steelers have their work cut out for them if they want to be as successful as the guy they canned in 2011.

Ben Roethlisberger -- Bust

2012 Target Leaders
574 pass attempts
Mike Wallace 119 20.7%
Antonio Brown 105 18.3%
Heath Miller 101 17.6%
Emmanuel Sanders 74 12.9%
All Others 175 30.5%

Take away a quarterback's best threat and he becomes less potent. Take away his best threat and force another weapon to rehab an injury and possibly never be the same and he becomes likely to struggle. Roethlisberger was one of just seven quarterbacks to average 20-plus Fantasy points per game in 2012, proving that he's got the ability to throw the football and pile up stats. But for the fourth straight year he's failed to start 16 games; last season he suffered nasty rib and shoulder injuries that kept him out for three weeks. The potential for Roethlisberger to miss a game or three automatically takes him out of the elite Fantasy category regardless of what his receiving corps looks like. It just so happens that his receiving corps features one nice young player in Antonio Brown and another decent youngster in Emmanuel Sanders. After that it's like he's renting receivers from the mid 2000s as Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress are his next best options. Tight end Heath Miller's status is up in the air, the offensive line isn't promised to be fixed after two starters were given the heave-ho and the run game is among the least established in the league. With so many young quarterbacks breaking through last season now is not the time to trust Roethlisberger any more than you have to. In fact, even if you can get him with a late-round pick as a Fantasy backup (!!) you're taking a slight risk considering his situation.

Heath Miller -- Bust

When Adrian Peterson came back strong from a torn ACL and MCL suffered less than nine months prior, most people just chalked it up to Peterson being a freak of nature. There aren't many people who consider Miller a freak of nature. Sure, Miller figures to diligently rehab his knee from a torn ACL, MCL and damaged PCL but the guy was never a great Fantasy option until last year when he admirably posted 7 or more Fantasy points in seven games. Taking him with a low-risk, late-round pick is fine so long as it looks like he has a chance to play in Week 1 -- that won't be known until training camp is in full swing. There could be a chance Miller begins the season on the PUP list, which would mean missing at least the first six games. If that happens then Miller wouldn't be worth drafting at all. Tight ends like Martellus Bennett, Owen Daniels, Jermaine Gresham and even Jared Cook stand to have more upside than Miller, who before last year had just one season with over 650 yards and seven touchdowns (and they weren't in the same season).

Jonathan Dwyer -- Breakout

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Ben Roethlisberger 105-115 overall
Jonathan Dwyer 80-90 overall
Isaac Redman Late-round pick
Antonio Brown 75-85 overall
Heath Miller Late-round pick
Shaun Suisham Undrafted
Steelers DST Final-round pick

In the never-ending quest for capable running backs to draft with good value in Fantasy, Dwyer stands as the best of the Steelers' bunch. With Rashard Mendenhall gone to the desert, the only capable running-downs talent left on the team is Dwyer. Last season he led the team in carries and rush yards, tied for the lead in rushing touchdowns and averaged more yards per carry than any other back on the roster. The problem was, none of those numbers were very good. But Dwyer did something worth noticing this offseason: When the Steelers gave him his restricted free agent tender, he signed it immediately citing a desire to prove he was dedicated to the team. He's since worked on his own to become a better receiver and more importantly improve his conditioning (he admitted to wearing down last season). Obviously the young man has some talent as he had back-to-back games with 100 rushing yards last season, and if he can put it all together he'll be in a position to get paid as an unrestricted free agent in 2014 because he's in a contract year now. So as long as they don't add another back via the NFL Draft, Dwyer will be worth a mid-round investment as a No. 3 Fantasy running back with upside.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Report: Bills expect running back Fred Jackson to play Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11/22/2014) Despite being listed as questionable for Monday’s game against the Jets, Bills coach Doug Marrone said running back Fred Jackson (groin) is in the team’s game plan, according to ESPN.

"We're planning on him to be ready to go," Marrone said, per ESPN. "Just take the injury and that's how we have to list it to protect ourselves."


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(11/22/2014) The Seahawks added offensive tackle Andrew McDonald to their practice squad and released defensive tackle Jimmy Staten, reports Sports Radio KJR.

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(11/22/2014) Althoguh Lions running back Reggie Bush vowed to return to the lineup this week, he is unlikely to play Sunday against New England, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora Saturday.

Bush was a limited participant all week in practice with an ankle issue. He is still working his way back from the injury, and it appears as if he's still not 100 percent. If he sits out Sunday, he will have missed four of his last six games.


Jets list 11 players as probable for Monday night
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(11/22/2014) Following a bye week, the Jets appear well rested heading into Week 12. The Jets listed offensive lineman Oday Aboushi (shoulder), wide receiver Eric Decker (hamstring), wide receiver Greg Salas (wrist), running back Chris Ivory (shoulder), running back Chris Johnson (knee), wide receiver T.J. Graham (neck), offensive lineman Willie Colon (knee), center Nick Mangold (shoulder), linebacker Antwan Barnes (knee), defensive back Darrin Walls (calf) and defensive back Jaiquawn Jarrett (calf) as probable for Monday night’s game against Buffalo.

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(11/22/2014) Broncos tight end Virgil Green told the Associated Press he's ready to return to action on Sunday. Green missed the previous three games with a calf injury. If Julius Thomas (ankle) is unable to play, Green hopes the team allows him to display his versatility as a pass-catcher.

"I'd love for J.T. to play. I really don't know where he's at right now, but if he doesn't go, I feel like it's an opportunity for me to show that I'm not just a blocking tight end," Green said. "I can catch. People know I can run the ball as well, so it's an opportunity for me and I have to jump all over it."


Ravens head into MNF with only two players listed as out
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(11/22/2014) Only Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro (thigh) and tackle Jah Reid (hand) were listed as out for Monday night’s game at New Orleans, according to the team’s final injury report.

The Ravens also listed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (not injury related), tight end Owen Daniels (not injury related), linebacker Terrell Suggs (not injury related), linebacker Daryl Smith (not injury related), fullback Kyle Juszczyk (foot) and guard Marshal Yanda (knee) as probable.


Bills list RB Fred Jackson questionable for Week 12
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11/22/2014) Bills running back Fred Jackson was a limited participant in practice Saturday and was designated as questionable for Monday night's contest against the Jets, per the team's official website. Jackson sat out Week 11 against Miami after suffering a setback Week 10 against Kansas City.

"We'll see how it goes. It felt good to get out there," Jackson said. "I don't feel like there were any setbacks. Hopefully I can continue to progress well and play well on Monday."


Bills unveil final injury report for Week 12
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(11/22/2014) The Bills have ruled out Jarius Wynn (knee) for Monday's game against the Jets. Ron Brooks (groin) and Fred Jackson (groin) were deemed as questionable for Week 12.

Meanwhile, the following players were ruled as probable: Dan Carpenter (groin), Marquise Goodwin (ankle), Chris Hogan (hip), Manny Lawson (ankle), Kyle Orton (toe), Frank Summers (neck), Kraig Urbik (shoulder) and Sammy Watkins (groin).


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(11/22/2014) The Chargers announced cornerback Richard Crawford was released Saturday. Crawford was released to make room for offensive lineman Ryan Miller. Miller had been on Chargers’ practice squad and was promoted to the 53-man roster. Crawford had yet to appear in a game for the Chargers.

 
 
 
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