Shark Bites

Steelers WR James Washington has lit it up through 2 preseason games, hauling in 8 balls for 162 yards and a score. But The Athletic's Mark Kaboly believes Donte Moncrief remains the team's #2 WR. "[HC Mike] Tomlin is enamored with what a veteran such as Moncrief can bring," Kaboly writes. Moncrief did start against the Chiefs on Sunday, but he fumbled after making his only catch. It'd be nice to see him turn in a better performance in the 3rd exhibition.

Steelers WR Donte Moncrief returned to practice on Wednesday. He ended up missing 6 days with a finger injury but caught 3 TDs from QB Ben Roethlisberger on his 1st day back. Moncrief is still considered the favorite for #2 WR duties in Pittsburgh, although WR James Washington's big showing in the preseason opener has put some heat on Moncrief. It'll be a situation to watch closely over the next 2 exhibitions.

Steelers WR Donte Moncrief "hasn’t participated much" since suffering a finger injury, according to The Athletic's Mark Kaboly. It's the 1st we've heard of the injury. Kaboly's report makes the injury seem minor, but we'll see how much longer Moncrief is sidelined. He was reportedly having a strong camp prior to going down and, if healthy, is the favorite to open the season as Pittsburgh's #2 WR.

Steelers RB Jaylen Samuels is expected to play a big role in the team's passing game this season, according to The Athletic's Mark Kaboly. "The Steelers have been so enamored with his route-running ability that a good chunk of their post-Antonio Brown offense has been modified to incorporate Samuels’ best skills: running routes, catching footballs and creating mismatches," Kaboly writes. Samuels racked up 195 receptions over his final 3 seasons at North Carolina State and then posted a 26-199-3 receiving line on 29 targets as a rookie. He ranked 14th in Pro Football Focus' receiving grades among 62 RBs with 20+ targets last season. Antonio Brown leaves behind 168 targets from a year ago, and it sounds like Samuels is in line to soak up a bunch of those. He has a shot at RB3 value in PPR leagues -- even behind a healthy James Conner.

The Steelers on Sunday activated OLB T.J. Watt off the PUP list. Watt opened camp on the active PUP after experiencing hamstring tightness during the initial conditioning run. He appears good to go now, though.

Steelers WR Donte Moncrief has built a "strong rapport" with QB Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ray Fittipaldo writes. “As you can tell from camp and OTAs, the connection is there,” Moncrief said Wednesday. “It’s crazy how fast [Roethlisberger] connected with me, how fast he learned the way I ran my routes and the spots I would be in. As you can tell, we continue to get better and better. We just want to keep going from that and keep getting better. It’s going to be a fun year. It’s going to be exciting.” The Athletic's Mark Kaboly called Moncrief the Steelers' "slam-dunk" #2 WR back in June, and it doesn't sound like anything has changed since. Moncrief has been consistently running with Roethlisberger and the 1st-team offense, while James Washington and rookie Dionta Johnson are seemingly battling for the #3 spot. Moncrief is a nice value at his current 11th-round ADP.

The Steelers placed OLB T.J. Watt on the PUP list before Friday's opening practice. According to the team website, Watt experienced some hamstring tightness after Thursday's conditioning run. "He may be on for a very short period of time," Tomlin said. "He was able to complete the test. He just expressed some tightness there at the end. So we will do what is appropriate from that standpoint." It doesn't look like IDP owners need to worry about Watt.

Steelers insider Mark Kaboly calls Donte Moncrief a "slam-dunk" #2 WR after an impressive spring with his new team. Moncrief also drew praise from QB Ben Roethlisberger for his work ethic and ability to pick up the offense. The former Colt and Jaguar has been an enigma throughout his career, disappointing fantasy owners more often than not. But he's not even 26 yet and has always possessed an intriguing combination of size and athleticism. Antonio Brown's departure, of course, leaves tons of opportunity in Pittsburgh's WR corps. We're still not counting out James Washington in the battle for the #2 WR spot and will also be keeping an eye on rookie Diontae Johnson. But Moncrief looks like the Steeler WR to target later in fantasy drafts right now.

If you ask Steelers RB James Conner about how the team plans to divvy touches among him, Jaylen Samuels and rookie Benny Snell this season, you might get scared off drafting him in Round 1. "I think it'll be spread out pretty evenly," Conner said Wednesday, according to Jonathan Bombulie of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. We would certainly bet on Pittsburgh siphoning a bit of Conner's work for the other guys in the backfield. But he drew 62.3% of Steelers carries last season, the league's 6th largest share -- despite missing 3 games. Conner's 76% share of team carries over his 13 games would have led all RBs for the season. So he can shed some work and still deliver RB1 numbers in fantasy. His targets could be more in danger, though. Conner drew 12.5% of Pittsburgh looks over his 13 games last year, which would have ranked 15th among RBs for the season. In the lone game he shared with Samuels after returning from the ankle sprain, Conner carried 14 times vs. Samuels' 2 but drew just 3 targets to Samuels' 8. Of course, more targets figure to be available overall, with Antonio Brown gone. And last year's 2nd most pass-heavy offense could lean further toward the run in 2019 -- which would boost carry volume. We'll see how things progress in the Pittsburgh backfield this summer.

The Steelers have been using RBs James Conner and Jaylen Samuels in the same backfield during some plays in OTAs, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I think that could be kind of special with me and [Conner] in the backfield," Samuels said. "Me and him in the game, period. We’re just building on from that right now… He’s more of a runner and a catcher, as well, but I can get outside and run routes, as well. To have that dual threat with me and him in the game, it could be really scary for defenses.” Conner was excellent as Pittsburgh's feature back for 13 games last season. But Samuels also impressed when given a shot, racking up 223 yards on 5.3 yards per carry and a 12-105-1 receiving line in 3 starts late in the year. There are touches to go around this season with Antonio Brown's departure, and Samuels has the receiving ability to capture some of them. He's an intriguing later-round pick in fantasy drafts.

The Steelers selected RB Benny Snell in Round 4 of the NFL Draft. The 5'10, 224-pounder posted big rushing numbers at Kentucky, topping 1,000 yards in each of his 3 seasons en route to career totals of 3,873 yards and 48 rushing scores. He caught a just-decent 29 passes but flashed worthwhile hands on tape. In Pittsburgh, Snell will have to battle Jaylen Samuels to back up James Conner. Samuels showed well late in 2018, with Conner out. The starter will be in the final year of his rookie contract in 2020, giving Snell a bit of appeal later in dynasty rookie drafts. He doesn't look like an asset to chase, though.

The Steelers selected Toledo WR Diontae Johnson in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The 5'10, 183-pounder tested as a 13th percentile athlete at the Combine. But he's 1 of the better route runners in this class and racked up 2,039 yards and 21 TDs over the past 2 years. Frankly, we didn't expect Johnson to come off the board this early -- but the Steelers have earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to drafting WRs. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein compares Johnson to former Steeler Emmanuel Sanders.

The Steelers have moved up from 20th to 10th in the 1st round of the NFL Draft to select LB Devin Bush. The former Michigan LB delivered the class' 2nd-best speed score at the position (121.5) and ranked 8th in the class in 2018 sacks per game (0.38). Bush supplied just 44 and 41 solo tackles over 2 seasons as a starter. He should fight for a starting job right away at a position where the Steelers' top 2 played 71% and 54% of the snaps last season. Pittsburgh also added former Ram Mark Barron in free agency.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that WR Donte Moncrief and the Steelers have agreed to a 2-year deal. Moncrief ranked 2nd among Jaguars with 89 targets in his lone Jacksonville season, catching 48 balls for 668 yards and 3 TDs. The targets, receptions and yards were each his 2nd-best career marks, while the 3 TDs tied his 2nd-highest. Moncrief figures to compete with 2nd-year WR James Washington for the #2 WR gig behind JuJu Smith-Schuster. We'd bet on Washington's upside first, but the ADP of each player will be interesting to watch and factor heavily into which is the better fantasy football draft value.

Steelers ILB Vince Williams (toe) is inactive for today's game against the Bengals, as expected. He entered the day doubtful.

2:12pm EST 12/30/18

Steelers RB James Conner (ankle) is active for today’s game against the Bengals. He put in 3 practices this week and passed his final test in pregame warmups. We’re expecting Conner to step back in as Pittsburgh’s lead back, with RB Jaylen Samuels in a change-of-pace role.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport confirms that Steelers RB James Conner (ankle) is expected to return for today's game against the Bengals. "But the team wants to see how he is after he warms up to be sure," Rapoport adds. Conner got in 3 full practices this week, so it'd be a major surprise if he didn't play. We won't get Pittsburgh's inactives until 3 pm ET, but Conner can be penciled into fantasy lineups.

Steelers ILB Vince Williams (toe) is doubtful for Sunday's finale against the Bengals. That likely means more playing time for L.J. Fort, but no Pittsburgh ILB has given us consistent enough playing time to be worth trusting in IDP lineups this week.

Steelers RB James Conner (ankle) is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bengals. He was a full-go in practice all week, though, putting him on track to play. Conner might cede some passing-down work to Jaylen Samuels, but we’re expecting him to step back in as Pittsburgh’s lead back.

10:12am EST 12/28/18

The Steelers have placed K Chris Boswell on IR with an undisclosed injury. Boswell struggled throughout the season, connecting on just 13 of 20 FG attempts and 43 of 48 XPs. He'll be a free agent this offseason. Pittsburgh signed K Matthew McCrane to replace Boswell. McCrane went just 5 of 9 on FGs with the Raiders earlier this season, so we'd lean against using him in Week 17 fantasy lineups.

 
 
 

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