Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has been impressed by how rookie RB Najee Harris has settled into the offense. "He doesn't seem lost. It's not too big for him. His head's not spinning," Roethlisberger said. "The most exciting part is once he gets it and it clicks and he goes full speed, it's going to be something to see." Harris has already made a few highlight-reel grabs in practice and is set up for a big workload right out of the gate. There's RB1 upside here.
Steelers RB Najee Harris played some 'X' receiver and slot receiver at rookie minicamp over the weekend, according to The Athletic's Mark Kaboly. "It appears that Harris will be used in the passing game as well and as more than just a checkdown option out of the backfield," Kaboly wrote. Harris racked up 70 catches over his final 2 seasons at Alabama and put some impressive receiving ability on tape. We're expecting him to immediately handle the majority of the ball-carrying and pass-catching work in Pittsburgh's backfield this season. The rookie has easy RB1 upside.
Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth went to Steelers in the 2nd round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Freiermuth delivered early at Penn State, ranking 2nd among 2018 Nittany Lions in catches, yards and TDs -- trailing only Broncos WR K.J. Hamler. Freiermuth again ranked 2nd on the team in each category as a sophomore, earning team offensive MVP honors over Hamler. He got off to an even hotter start in 2020 but went down early with a shoulder injury that required surgery. That recovery could impact his rookie-year preparation, but we’ve learned to not expect early fantasy returns from TEs. Long term, Freiermuth looks like the clear 2nd TE in a weak draft class at the position. His combo of blocking and receiving should earn him a regular role -- and perhaps a full starting gig -- within the next couple of seasons. In Pittsburgh, Freiermuth figures to start out behind Eric Ebron, who’s only signed through 2021.
New Steeler Najee Harris got the "3-down back" label from GM Kevin Colbert on Thursday night. “He’s a three-down back that played in an NFL system,” Colbert said after taking Harris 24th overall. “His one hidden trait is that he finds invisible yards at that second level. There are times when you think he should be going down and he finds 6, 7, 8 yards. It is really exciting to get a three-down back and add him to the team.” This is a "3-down back" label we can buy into considering Harris will be competing for touches with Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland. Pittsburgh's offensive line figures to be a problem for Harris. But volume trumps all in fantasy football, and the rookie has a shot to finish top 10 in total touches this season.
Alabama RB Najee Harris landed with the Steelers at Pick #24 of the 2021 NFL Draft. The #1 overall recruit in the 2017 class, Harris had to wait behind some other star backs at Alabama before taking over the backfield the past 2 years. He finished his college career, though, with school records for rushing yards, rushing TDs and total TDs. Harris adds a stronger receiving profile than you’d normally find in a 230-pound back. His 70 receptions over the past 2 seasons produced 10.4 yards per catch and 11 TDs, and they included plenty of WR-type plays downfield. Adding 1st-round draft capital makes Harris a strong bet to load up on touches right away. And he has very little competition for touches in Pittsburgh. The concern is an offensive line that ranked dead last in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards last year. Still, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Harris score at the RB1 level in fantasy immediately.
The Steelers have signed RB Kalen Ballage to a 1-year deal, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Ballage lands in a backfield with plenty of opportunity currently available. We'll see, though, whether Pittsburgh adds a RB in the draft. We'd bet on the Steelers doing so, with the big question being how early. Ballage saw surprising touch volume with the Chargers last season, after injuries knocked out Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. But he averaged only 3.3 yards per rush and 5.0 per reception. If you want to take a shot on Ballage at the very end of best-ball drafts, there's little risk. But we'd hope to see more touches go to Anthony McFarland -- who sure looks like he has a higher ceiling -- than Ballage. Even Benny Snell would probably still be a better bet for carries on the current depth chart.
Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is resigning with the Steelers on a 1-year, $8 million deal, according to NFL Network. Smith-Schuster reportedly chose this path over similar offers from the Ravens and Chiefs that added more money via incentives. So he'll remain in Pittsburgh on a "prove it" contract for 2021. Smith-Schuster's return complicates the target picture for him, Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool. Pittsburgh was the league's 3rd most pass-heavy team in 2020, trailing only the 1-15 Jaguars. The Steelers dumped OC Randy Fichtner and turned to QBs coach Matt Canada. We'd bet on at least a bit more balance to the play-calling in 2019. Check out our 2021 fantasy football rankings to see how the return impacts our numbers for Smith-Schuster and other Steelers pass-catchers -- as well as QB Ben Roethlisberger.
Update: ESPN's Adam Schefter adds that Smith-Schuster turned down a multi-year offer from the Eagles.
The Steelers announced Thursday that they have agreed to a new contract with QB Ben Roethlisberger. That should give the team relief under the lowered salary cap for 2021. For fantasy purposes, it just confirms what we all expected: Roethlisberger will lead the offense for at least 1 more year. We'll see whether he gets JuJu Smith-Schuster back (don't bet on it) and how the backfield settles out (James Conner looks likely to leave). Roethlisberger is a solid pick in mid-QB2 range in current best-ball drafting.
The Steelers announced that QB Ben Roethlisberger will be back for the 2021 campaign. Team president Art Rooney added that they'll need to "work out Ben’s contract," which is set to pay him a whopping $41 million this year. Roethlisberger went in the tank down the stretch last season, averaging just 6.0 yards per attempt with 15 TDs vs. 10 INTs over the final 7 games, including the playoff loss to Cleveland. Turning 39 in March, Big Ben isn't a great bet to bounce back in 2021.
The Steelers signed QB Dwayne Haskins, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. Haskins flamed out on and off the field in Washington but is certainly worth a flier for Pittsburgh. He was the 15th overall pick of the 2019 draft after chucking for 4,831 yards and 50 scores at his final season at Ohio State and is still just 23 years old. QB Ben Roethlisberger is tentatively expected back for 2021, but the Steelers need to find their QB of the future.
The Steelers have promoted QB coach Matt Canada to OC. The 48-year-old had been in that previous role for just 1 season, spending the rest of his coaching career in the college ranks. Canada had 9 different OC stints, most recently with LSU in 2017 and Maryland in 2018. Those teams ranked 76th and 69th, respectively, in points per game.
NFL Network's Mike Garafolo hears that there's "optimism" within the Steelers organization that QB Ben Roethlisberger will be back for the 2021 season. "Optimism" is an interesting word choice. Roethlisberger had a solid start to 2020 but averaged just 6.0 yards per attempt with 15 TDs and 10 INTs over the final 7 games, including the playoff loss to Cleveland. He turns 39 in March.
The Steelers are parting ways with OC Randy Fichtner, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports. Fichtner has been with the team since 2007, taking over as OC in 2018. The Steelers offense struggled mightily down the stretch this season, averaging just 22.1 points and 347 yards over the final 7 games. There were also whispers of a bit of a power struggle between Fichtner and QB Ben Roethlisberger. We'll see who the Steelers tab as their next OC -- and if Roethlisberger returns for 2021.
Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) returned to a full practice on Friday and isn't listed on the final injury report. It looks like Thursday was just a rest day. JuJu should be ready for his usual role vs. the Browns on Sunday night.
Steelers TE Eric Ebron has been placed on the COVID list. He's out for Sunday's game against the Browns and will likely miss Pittsburgh's postseason opener next week if he tested positive for the virus. We'll update his status when we know more.
Update: Ebron is believed to be a close contact of CB Joe Haden, who tested positive, according to ESPN's Dan Graziano. So, barring a positive test, Ebron will be eligible to return next weekend.
The Steelers have ruled S Terrell Edmunds out with a shoulder injury for Sunday's finale against the Browns. He joins DE Cameron Heyward and OLB T.J. Watt as missing starters, with the other 2 reportedly set to be rested. We'll see whether any other defensive starters land among the game-day inactives.
The Steelers will rest OLB T.J. Watt and DE Cameron Heyward for Sunday's finale against the Browns, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This is why you don't play season-long fantasy into Week 17: IDP Edition.
Steelers HC Mike Tomlin announced on Tuesday that QB Mason Rudolph will start this weekend's finale vs. the Browns. Pittsburgh can't fall past the #3 seed and can only climb to #2 if the Bills lose at home to the Dolphins. So QB Ben Roethlisberger, whose arm has looked tired lately, will get the week off. Tomlin said "the vast majority of guys will be playing" vs. Cleveland, but we wouldn't be surprised if guys like James Conner, Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster at least had their snaps limited.