The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for their Super Bowl titles and their rabid towel waving fan base. During the Bill Cowher era they were known as a ground and pound offense that often threw in an ingenious trick play here and there. Mike Tomlin didn’t skip a beat when he took over as head coach for Bill Cowher as he was able to raise another championship banner into the ring of honor. Now five years removed from their last Super Bowl title the Steelers look like a team in transition.
Can you name the last Steelers’ wide receiver besides Hines Ward to have over 80 receptions? (Answer below)
The team had changed its identity under former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians from a ground and pound offense to an all out aerial assault. Deep throws to Mike Wallace were the scare tactic that kept defenses honest, allowing Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace to pick up cheap yardage on quick screens and pick plays. The fact that Big Ben managed to escape pressure with ease only helped mask the eroding skills of the offensive line.
Last year marked another change in offensive philosophy as Mike Tomlin brought in Todd Haley to change the culture of the offense. Todd Haley wanted to reintroduce a running game with play action principals, but early season injuries on the offensive line as well as inconsistent running-back play left the offense without an identity. The shortened offseason could not have hindered Haley and Roethlisberger’s chemistry any more than it did. the only player that seemed to benefit from the chaos was the always over looked Heath Miller. His 71 receptions led the Steelers and his 8 touchdowns helped make him a top six tight end in 2012. Before we get overly excited we should remember the last time we saw him his knee was being torn to shreds and he isn’t currently ready for training camp.
The reason I chose to take a look at the Steelers is because I am constantly faced with a decision on Antonio Brown in the late fifth round of drafts. If I am going to go wide receiver the ADP always suggests Antonio Brown versus Pierre Garcon. If I decide to go running back I can gamble on Shane Vereen or take a sliding rookie like Eddie Lacy or Montee Ball. I usually go with Garcon or Vereen every time. I go with Garcon if my WR2 is a little weak and I go with Vereen if my RB2 is an injury prone guy.
I know, I know I sound like a guy who’s been burned by Antonio Brown before, (and I am!) but after looking at the Steelers offense and his particular skill set I can not justify taking him this early in drafts. First of all he has never topped 70 catches. Yet he is going off the board in every mock like he’s a guaranteed 90 catch guy. He topped 1100 yards in 2011, but scored only 2 touchdowns. The last time I checked those count as six points. (this isn’t Russia is it?)
After breaking down the Steeles offensive film and looking at the current weapons on the roster I see them going back to a run first offense. Heavy doses of LeVeon Bell and Isaac Redman can be expected. Antonio Brown will probably top 75 catches, but his TD total will be between 4-6 and not the 8-10 that we can get later in the draft. He is not a red zone threat and he is not the playmaker that Mike Wallace was. He is a very nice #2 receiver, but that’s the problem with the Steelers. They are full of #2 receivers. Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and the newest addition Markus Wheaten would all be looked at as flankers or slot receivers in most offenses.
I don’t have a problem with #2 receivers. They can be useful fantasy receivers in certain formats and can help a team that is loaded at RB and the onesie positions to fantasy championships. With my draft philosophy banking on drafting quarterbacks and tight ends late, #2 receivers don’t help me all that much. I need the bulk of my lineup (RBs and WRs) to outscore the other guy week in and week out and Antonio Brown is not going to help with that.
The one receiver that may help my team is Emmanuel Sanders. The New England Patriots thought enough of Sanders to try and sign him away from the Steelers in the offseason with a tricky one year deal that the Steelers were forced to match. Sanders will now play out his one year deal as a Steeler with a much bigger role in place. The Steelers’ SBnation page put his excpectations at 70 catches and over 1000 yards. Not a bad return for a wide receiver currently going at the 106th pick in drafts.
Wait did I say 106 overall. That’s gotta be a misprint. Nope it’s confirmed here at www.fantasyfootballcalculator.com. That’s right, a receiver that even the Steelers expect to produce those numbers is going a full five rounds later than Antonio Brown.
How can this be? Why the disparity in ADP?
I’ll tell you why. The fantasy football world is a thick headed bunch. Everyone and their mother thought Antonio Brown was going to explode last year and when he came up short people chalked it up using every excuse in the book. The list is long, the short training camp, the offensive coordinator change, the big contract was weighing on him. I’ve heard it all except the answer that I want to hear. WE WERE WRONG. It happens.
Don’t get me wrong, Antonio Brown is a very good football player, but he will never be a consistent top 20 fantasy wide receiver and will never live up to his 59.8 overall ADP. He is a better football player than Emmanuel Sanders will probably ever be, but if I can get Emmanuel Sanders in the 10th round of a fantasy football draft I will like him a whole lot more than I will like Antonio Brown in the 5th.
Keep this in mind when Antonio Brown comes up as your suggested pick in drafts and please learn from my mistakes.
(Answer-Yancy Thigpen had 85 receptions to go along with 1307 yards and 5 touchdowns in 1995)