AFC North Dynasty Capsule: Pittsburgh Steelers

Ken KellyContributor IIIJuly 19, 2010

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 20:  Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers during the game on December 20, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Ever since the Steelers beat the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII to capture their sixth world championship, things have not gone as planned.

Pittsburgh has long been one the most respected franchises in all the NFL. Recent player behavior off the field has seriously jeopardized that standing.

Former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes has already been jettisoned to New York and Ben Roethlisberger is facing a league suspension, fully supported by the Steelers, for his recent off-the-field escapades.

With so much chaos reigning in Pittsburgh, what does that mean for the short- and long-term values of Steeler players from a dynasty fantasy football perspective?

Let’s find out in today’s edition of the dynastyleaguefootball.com dynasty capsule.

Players in their Prime

Rashard Mendenhall, RB

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Mendenhall’s rookie season was a total mess. He barely played, and seemingly fumbled every time he touched the ball before being wiped out for the season by Ray Lewis.

The 58 yards he produced in 2008 were simply a disaster compared to the lofty expectations the Steelers had for him.

Last year was a completely different story as Mendenhall finally showed the skills that made him a first-round pick out of Illinois.

He finished a very impressive season with 1,108 yards, and seven rushing touchdowns to go along with another 261 receiving yards, and one more score. Dynasty owners breathed a big sigh of relief as he showed much promise.

There are concerns about the way he seemingly wore down last season, but that was likely a delayed version of the rookie wall since it was his first legitimate complete season as an NFL runner.

Mendenhall has a lot of promise as a No. 2 running back in dynasty leagues, with the talent and situation to vault into a No. 1 option at some point.

Heath Miller, TE

He produced his finest statistical year in 2009 by recording 76 catches, 789 yards and six touchdowns.

Miller is a consistent red-zone threat and has shown durability by playing in 78 of a possible 80 regular-season games.

Miller is a low-end No. 1 or high-end No. 2 tight end in dynasty leagues for the foreseeable future.

Rising Players

Jonathan Dwyer, RB


Nobody experienced a draft freefall like Dwyer this year. Once regarded as a possible first round pick out of Georgia Tech, Dwyer’s stock tumbled after a poor showing at the NFL combine and private workouts leading up to the draft.

Combine that with the very difficult player evaluation from a non-conventional collegiate offense and concerns about him having ADD, and Dwyer was caught in the perfect storm. Pittsburgh seems to be the beneficiary after taking him at No. 188 overall.

There’s no doubting his talent. He’s a bruising running back with adequate speed and toughness. Just remember, he was taken very late in the draft.

The Steelers will have little invested in him if he doesn’t play well in training camp and the preseason. He could just as easily be placed on waivers or the practice squad than make an impact this year.

Everything since the draft has been positive on Dwyer, however. He showed up to OTAs in good shape and showed the ability to hit the hole with explosiveness.

At this point, his value is rising again. He’s a good player to target in the late second round of rookie drafts as a high risk, high reward player. Just temper your expectations.

Mike Wallace, WR

If you were to make a league-wide list of players with rising values, Wallace would be at the top.

His rookie year showcased his explosiveness as he recorded 756 yards and six touchdowns on just 39 catches for a per catch average of an incredible 19.4 yards.

With Santonio Holmes being sent away to the Jets, Wallace vaults to the starting lineup in Pittsburgh.

Expect a breakout season from Wallace where 1,000 yards and double digit touchdowns aren’t unrealistic.

Those numbers should actually be expected. He looks like he could be the heir apparent No. 1 receiver in Pittsburgh when Hines Ward retires. Don’t be too surprised if he leads the Steelers in receiving yards as soon as this year.

Wallace makes for a fine No. 2 wide receiver in 2010 with the potential for No. 1 status in subsequent years. Yes, he’s that talented.

Players with Falling Values

Ben Roethlisberger, QB

At just 28 years old, this two-time winning Super Bowl quarterback comes off one of his most spectacular seasons that featured 4,328 passing yards, and 26 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions.

He finished in the top 10 in most fantasy league scoring systems yet again and he has weapons galore. So, he should be a prime candidate to build your team around, right?!

Owning Roethlisberger in dynasty leagues is like playing with fire. The motorcycle incident a few years back may have served as a warning for his owners, but few expected his recent off-the-field behavioral issues.

After multiple sexual assault incidents, the Steelers seem poised to embrace him one last time after his four- to six-week suspension to begin the season.

Just don’t expect any margin for error ever again. If Roethlisberger does not mature and take his position as the leader of this franchise more seriously, he’ll be looking for work elsewhere.

Statistically, Roethlisberger makes a fine case to be a No. 1 quarterback in dynasty leagues. Realistically, there’s way too much risk involved to feel comfortable with him in that premier spot on your team.

If there’s another owner who values him as a No. 1 quarterback, I’d be looking to move him immediately.

Hines Ward, WR

You won’t find too many tougher players than Ward. He’ll be a big loss to the Steelers on and off the field when he decides to retire. The man is simply a warrior.

He put up great numbers last season with 95 catches, 1,167 yards, and six touchdowns. That was actually Ward’s best year statistically since 2003. At age 34, it’s tough to expect those types of numbers again, even with Santonio Holmes out of the picture.

With retirement squarely on the horizon, Ward’s value falls squarely on contending teams. If you’re not a team poised to win a title in the next couple of seasons, it’s time to get some value for Ward while you still can.

Antwaan Randle El, WR

He was able to post at least 50 receptions in each of the past three seasons in Washington. Now, he returns to Pittsburgh where he made the biggest plays of his career.

Randle El is going to be a slot receiving threat, a wildcat player, and maybe even an occasional returner in his second stint with the Steelers.

While he could make some exciting plays, they’re just not going to translate into much from a fantasy perspective. You can let someone else roster him.

Mewelde Moore, RB

Moore has had some productive times in both Pittsburgh and Minnesota. In fact, he rushed for 588 yards just two years ago when Willie Parker went down.

Fact is, even with a Mendenhall injury, Moore would likely split time with another back.

He’s a decent handcuff to Mendenhall owners at the moment, but Dwyer could easily overtake his spot as the No. 2 as soon as this year. Watch that battle closely.

Limas Sweed, WR

This former Texas Longhorn was supposed to be one of the best wide receivers in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Unfortunately, the seven receptions and 69 receiving yards he’s posted in the past two years combined don’t equate to dominance in fantasy or reality.

Sweed has reportedly been dealing with severe depression that has derailed his career thus far.

He also just tore his Achilles tendon, putting him out for the entire upcoming season. It’s probably time to just cut bait and move on if you’re a Sweed owner.

Sleeper

Emmanuel Sanders, WR

The injury to Sweed and the trade of Holmes opens the door for Sanders to get some reps at wide receiver.

He’s only 5’11” and 180 pounds, but this kid can fly and excelled in the June Jones run and shoot offense at SMU. Keep an eye on Sanders as a player who eventually may become more than just a situational deep threat.

If he can develop, he has a chance to be the most famous Emmanuel since the star of Webster, Emmanuel Lewis.

Super Sleeper

Dennis Dixon, QB

It looks like Byron Leftwich is going to be the starter to begin the season, keeping the proverbial seat warm for Big Ben. However, it would be a mistake to completely discount Dennis Dixon. 

He has great athletic ability, showed a lot of poise in the game he played in last year, and has great support in the locker room and with the coaching staff.

If Roethlisberger can’t pull things together, Dixon could very well have a chance at being the quarterback of the future for this team. He’s worth a roster spot in deep dynasty leagues.

Summary

The Steelers have the weapons on offense to be very valuable to dynasty fantasy football owners.

With Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jonathan Dwyer, there are lots of young players to evaluate along with the veterans on this team.

Make no mistake, though. The short-term success of many of these players is going to revolve on Ben Roethlisberger making the most of what could be his final opportunity to be the face of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Dynasty owners sure hope he comes through.

For dynasty team capsules for every team in the NFL, and player rankings specific to your dynasty team's current status, visit dynastyleaguefootball.com.