Steelers' Top Players to Target in Fantasy Football Drafts

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2021

Steelers' Top Players to Target in Fantasy Football Drafts

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers fell short of expectations in 2020 but they were a bountiful source of points for fantasy football managers. 

    The Steelers were among the most high-volume passing teams in the league last season. Ben Roethlisberger chucked it over 600 times last season, creating the opportunity for Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster to finish in the top 24 of PPR leagues, per FantasyPros

    The disproportionate passing script also gave way to a league-worst running game. The Steelers did not have a top-25 running back. 

    They are hoping that will change after using a first-round pick Najee Harris. But his work will be cut out for him as they also start playing with a reworked offensive line. 

    So, who should fantasy managers be looking to add to their teams from the Steel City? Let's take a look factoring in their current average draft position

WR Diontae Johnson

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    Current ADP: 63.7 (WR23)

    The good news for Diontae Johnson last season was that he was the biggest target magnet on the team with 144. The bad news was that he led the league in drops. 

    Despite the drops, he still managed to finish as the 21st wide receiver in points per reception leagues. He hauled in 88 passes for 923 yards and seven touchdowns. Perhaps more importantly, he's acknowledged the production he left on the table and is addressing it. 

    "A lot of times you don't know where the defender is and you're trying to get the ball and do what I can do," Johnson said, per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "This year I've been trying to catch the ball first. I think I've been showing that in practice."

    The bottom line for Johnson is that he's only 25 years old and entering his third year in the league. He showed he was capable of being a reliable WR2 on a winning fantasy team last season. 

    Even if he just repeats his stats from last year, he's a good pick at his average draft position. If he can fix the drop issue, he will have the opportunity to outperform his expectations. 

RB Najee Harris

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    Current ADP: 22.3 (RB14)

    Teams don't spend a first-round pick on a running back unless they intend to use them. After having the worst rushing attack in the league last season, the Steelers took Najee Harris in the first round to resurrect their run game. 

    It's a tall task but the 23-year-old's size and physical running style are built to be the kind of player who can force a run game. According to PFF, he had over 800 yards after contact for the Alabama Crimson Tide last season. 

    Playing behind an offensive line that will be breaking in several new starters, Harris knows that he's going to have to make plays for himself at times. 

    "Not every play is going to be blocked," he said, per Brooke Pryor of ESPN. "And I know that. I think what separates the running backs, from the good one and an amateur one is when a play isn't blocked for what it was, what can he create? That's what I try to do. I try to create as much as I can when the play is not blocked."

    The running back's draft pedigree, skills and projected role make him well worth the dice roll of taking him at the end of the second round or beginning of the third. 

WR Chase Claypool

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    Current ADP: 81.3 (WR27)

    Chase Claypool's rookie season embodied the uneven season Pittsburgh had as a team. They raced to an 11-0 start to the season while their rookie wide receiver racked up eight touchdowns in his first 11 games. 

    As defenses started to pay more attention to the rookie, though, he went cold. He was held out of the end zone for five straight games as the Steelers offense tried to find answers. 

    That type of inconsistency is bound to happen to a rookie. The true measure of his potential will come in his second season when he will have to find ways to win, even with attention from the defense. 

    The 23-year-old is certainly not lacking for confidence. He's projecting 14 touchdowns for himself next season. 

    That isn't out of the question, either. His size and athleticism (6'4", 238 pounds) set him up for that kind of role. He will likely remain one of the team's most effective passing targets. 

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