We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2010 fantasy football questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers Fantasy Football Preview comes courtesy of our friends over at Behind The Steel Curtain.
1. Rashard Mendenhall seems like he’ll have to be the bread winner at least while Ben Roethlisberger is out. What do you expect from him? Will the Steelers be able to move the ball without Ben? Does Mendenhall hold off Dwyer for goal line carries?
The Steelers are expecting big things from Rashard Mendenhall in 2010 following his breakthrough season a year ago. The Steelers were somewhat cautious with how often they used Mendenhall. Or maybe that was just a product of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians being head over heels in love with the passing game. The fact that Mendenhall only had 242 rushing attempts for the year, and only one game with more than 25 carries, probably though was partly related to the fact that he had missed almost all of his rookie season in 2008 after getting TKOd by Ray Lewis in Week 4. The Steelers front office has come out and said they’re committed to running the ball more frequently and effectively this coming season, so it’s safe to assume that Mendenhall, if he can stay healthy, will hit the 300-carry plateau. They now know he can shoulder the workload, and he’ll have had an extra offseason in a world class NFL strength and conditioning program. People tend to assume that these kids come into the league 100% mature psychically. It’s just not the case, particularly for a guy like Mendy who entered the league after his junior season at Illinois at the age of 21. Now 23, I expect Mendenhall to be even stronger closing out runs, more secure with the football, and more consistently productive in short-yardage and goal line situations.
And yes, I do expect Mendenhall to hold off Dwyer for the lion’s share of the TD opportunities in the red zone. We’ll see what kind of camp and preseason Dwyer has, but unless he just looks like gangbusters, there’s no reason to get cute and risk leaving points on the board by playing an unproven rookie quantity. I do think that Dwyer may get the occasional series throughout the season, but I don’t think he’ll siphon off more than a handful of touchdowns directly from Mendy.
2. Mike Wallace had a lot of huge plays last year. With Santonio Holmes gone, do you think he can take his place and keep it up for an entire season? How much does Roethlisberger’s suspension hurt his overall numbers for the year?
I think Wallace will experience some growing pains in year two as he makes the transition from complimentary #3 option to the #2 role. But I’m not sure those struggles will translate into diminished fantasy productivity. Wallace should have quite a few more balls thrown his way this coming season, so expect his receptions total to increase from 39 a year ago to somewhere in the 48-55 range. We’ll see about matching or bettering his impressive TD totals from a year ago (6). Reports out of spring OTAs were that Byron Leftwich – who’s been getting the bulk of the snaps with the first team, not Dennis Dixon – was struggling with his timing when throwing to Wallace. Not surprisingly, his sub 4.3 speed takes some getting ussd to. So, yes, I think Wallace’s numbers may be down to start the year. You may want to consider picking him up a week or two before Ben’s return, trying to trade for him when his value may be low in Weeks 3 or 4, or stashing him away on the bench for a few weeks while seeing what kind of rapport he and Leftwich have developed over the summer.
3. Roethlisberger had a great season last year, do you think he can pick up where he left off after all of the off field problems and the suspension? Do you see his suspension being cut by two games?
Yes, I do see his suspension being cut by two games. I think he’ll be just fine when he comes back. He may be an idiot, but the man can play football and we saw last year (most of the time at least) how he had really made substantial progress with his understanding of the offense and what defenses are trying to do to fool him. There’s always the possibility that he reverts to his old habits of trying to do too much by himself. Not just holding on to the ball too long – he’s not yet been able to shake that habit – but his old habit of forcing the ball into tight coverage. Not sure how to project his season from a statistical standpoint, but in the grand scheme of things, I think he’ll put this off field stuff out of his mind and return to being one of the NFL’s top shelf QBs.
4. With Holmes gone Hines Ward looks like he’ll be the #1 receiver. Do you see an uptick in production or does age and nagging injuries keep him from a big season?
It’s hard to see how Ward can improve upon his performances the past two seasons. At age 32 in ’08, Ward had 81 receptions for 1,043 yards and 7 TDs; those numbers increased to 95 receptions and 1,167 yards last year at age 33. His TDs dropped only slightly to 6. Remarkable. So, no, I don’t see him posting better numbers in ’10. If he could even match his ’08 season, the Steelers would have to be thrilled.
5. Jonathan Dwyer went later in the draft than expected. Adam Schefter reported that it was because of “medical reasons.” Has anymore been reported on the reasons? Do you believe Dwyer has a chance to overtake Mendenhall in the years to come?
Only thing I know about the Dwyer situation is that he is diagnosed with ADD and takes Adderall I believe for it. The prescription drug can have side effects that I don’t think would be all that pleasant for an athlete – increased heart rate, dehydration, irregular appetite/sleep schedule, etc. If it’s not that, I have no clue what the issue may be. As for overtaking Mendenhall, it’s far too early to say that. Mendenhall’s rookie contract expires after the 2012 season, so there’s three seasons coming up where the Steelers are going to be interested in getting some return on their investment from Mendenhall. He was a 1st rounder, don’t forget, so he cost a pretty penny to sign compared to Dwyer, a 6th rounder. The Steelers already missed out on getting some ROI when Mendenhall was lost for almost all of his rookie year. However, because it’s a two-back league now, that doesn’t mean that Dwyer can’t and won’t work his way into a more regular rotation in 2011 and 2012. Look for him to really start seeing the field somewhat regularly in 2011; and expect even bigger things in 2012 from Dwyer if the Steelers haven’t extended Mendenhall prior to the start of the year like they typically do with players they’d like to retain who are entering the final year of their contracts.