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32 In 32: Pittsburgh Steelers

In our “32 in 32” series, we are highlighting three of the most notable fantasy football players for each team, covering all 32 teams in 32 days!


Kenny Pickett (QB – Pittsburgh Steelers):


It was a rather underwhelming rookie season for 2022’s only 1st round rookie QB, Kenny Pickett, going for just over 2,600 total yards and 10 TDs to 9 INTs.


It’s not a big shock that Pickett struggled as a rookie, seeing as history has not favored 1st round rookie QBs, finishing inside the top-24 for fantasy just 40% of the time and inside the top-15 just 13% of the time.


When you factor in Pickett’s missed time to injury, only starting 12 games, missing nearly all of one of those games, and ranking as the QB16 in fantasy in games that he fully played, the future prospects are appealing for Pickett.


The Steelers completely overhauled their offense this offseason, adding Isaac Seumalo, Nate Herbig, Le’Raven Clark, and Broderick Jones on the offensive line, drafted 3rd round TE Darnell Washington, traded for Allen Robinson, and will be getting WR Calvin Austin back from injury. With those offensive additions and a second offseason of development, a top-15 finish is by no means out of reach for Pickett.


I like him as a mid-to-low QB2 option, preferred as a waiver wire option in 1QB leagues, but as a high-priority QB2 target in 2QB/SuperFlex leagues, especially given his upside with one of the better receiving corps in the league.

 

Najee Harris (RB – Pittsburgh Steelers):


After a dominant rookie season that saw him total over 1,600 yards and 10 TDs while ranking as the RB3 in fantasy, Najee Harris took a step back, dropping to just over 1,200 yards and ranking as the RB14 in 2022.


There’s a wide variety of explanations for Harris’ massive drop-off in Year 2, between an offseason foot injury that clearly lingered and rookie QB play, it wasn’t an ideal situation for Harris, but the most notable reason for his decrease in production was the departure of Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger’s inability to move forced Harris into 94 targets and 74 catches, which disappeared with a younger and more mobile QB in Kenny Pickett.


We did see a massive turn-around in the second half of the season as Harris became more excluded from his preseason Lisfranc injury and rookie QB Kenny Pickett saw in-season development. He went from the RB23 in the first 8 games to the RB5 in his final 8 games, seeing a 45% increase in production and an 18% increase in per-touch production.


With a completely overhauled offensive line, plus the addition of the 2023 Draft’s top blocking TE, it appears very likely Harris returns to his RB1 ways, even if it’s not quite to the extent that we saw in his rookie season.


Going as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 option, I am very comfortable with Harris in the late-2nd/early-3rd round as his draft price indicates, especially given the volume he commands on a weekly basis.

 

Diontae Johnson (WR – Pittsburgh Steelers):


Volume was in no shortage for Diontae Johnson, who has now ranked in the top-6 in targets for three consecutive years, most recently drawing 147 targets in 2022.


Unfortunately, Johnson was unable to convert upon his extreme volume last year, bringing in just 86 of his 147 targets for 882 yards and failing to find the endzone all season, resulting in him finishing as the WR28 in fantasy.


It was a very uncharacteristic season for Johnson in that regard, seeing as his career TD production had been 5 TDs in 2019 (as a rookie), 7 TDs in 2020, and 8 TDs in 2021. His lack of TD production was the primary reason he couldn’t be trusted as anything more than a WR3/FLEX option most weeks, scoring between 8 and 15 points in 13/17 games last year.


Now with another season in Matt Canada’s offense and with QB Kenny Pickett now having a season of development, there’s the very realistic potential that Johnson replicates his large target share, but is able to capitalize in a better offense, offering Chris Godwin-like potential as a highly-consistent and productive WR2 option.


The lack of draft capital required to select Johnson, going as a mid-WR3 in the 6th round, makes him a very intriguing option as a WR3/FLEX option, especially given his consistency and lack of TD reliance.

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