James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Vance McDonald's Fantasy Outlook After Week 3

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2018

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) works against Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback M.J. Stewart during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Steelers made their fans and fantasy players relying on their offensive weapons happy Monday during a 30-27 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

A number of Pittsburgh's playmakers thrived in the team's first victory of the season, including running back James Conner (15 carries for 61 yards and five catches for 34 yards), wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (nine catches for 116 yards) and tight end Vance McDonald (four catches for 112 yards and a touchdown).

Here is a fantasy reaction for all three players.

         

James Conner

As long as Le'Veon Bell is out, Conner is a fantasy starter.

Bell is yet to sign his franchise tender and join the team during a holdout after he and the Steelers didn't come to terms on a contract extension this offseason, which has opened the door for Conner to shine. While he was quiet for much of Monday's game, he picked up critical yardage in the final minutes as the Steelers iced away the clock and narrow win.

His physical running style allows him to pick up yardage between the tackles and, as a result, stack up to Bell's production through three games:

This was also Conner's third straight contest with five receptions, which is a running back dream for fantasy players in point-per-reception leagues. Even when he had just 17 rushing yards in Week 2 after being limited to eight carries because the Steelers were in comeback mode against the Kansas City Chiefs, he salvaged his line with five catches for 48 yards.

As long as Bell is not on the active roster, Conner should be on yours.

          

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Smith-Schuster is a WR 2 on his own team playing alongside Antonio Brown and a surefire starter and WR 2 in fantasy circles as a yardage machine.

Monday marked his third straight contest with more than 100 yards, and his 27 catches in three weeks has left PPR players pleased. He has also proved last year's performance of 917 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches was not a fluke and continues to develop a rapport with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Most encouraging are the targets Roethlisberger has given him in the early going.

He finished with a team-high 11 in Monday's game and was the primary beneficiary of the additional defensive attention Brown draws on every play. There is no reason to think that won't continue moving forward this season with Brown serving as a touchdown threat on each snap and opening up windows for his teammate as safeties shade his way.

That leaves Smith-Schuster a no-doubt fantasy starter.

         

Vance McDonald

If players received fantasy points for stiff arms, McDonald would have been the leading scorer in the league with what he unleashed on Buccaneers safety Chris Conte on his way to the end zone Monday.

While 75 of his 112 yards came on that catch, it was encouraging to see him fully healthy after he missed Week 1 with an injury.

Still, the fact that his five targets left him behind Smith-Schuster, Brown and Conner is discouraging, especially after he managed just three catches for 26 yards in the shootout against the Chiefs. There are a lot of weapons on Pittsburgh's offense, which means McDonald won't receive consistent looks every week.

He has never tallied more than 391 receiving yards in a season and had just 188 last year—his first with the Steelers after four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

McDonald is not a surefire starter and doesn't have an established track record in place, but the upside of playing in an explosive offense that is going to score at a position that isn't deep across the league makes him at least worthy of a waiver-wire look considering he is owned in just 11 percent of Yahoo leagues.

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