When Ben Roethlisberger speaks, Pittsburgh listens. So when the two-time Super Bowl champion predicts a breakout star, it's worth paying attention.
Most of the Steelers talk heading into the 2015 season has been about Antonio Brown, LeVeon Bell and Martavis Bryant, but Roethlisberger believes a different player will steal the headlines offensively this season.
"I think Markus Wheaton is our breakout player of the year," Roethlisberger said on Sirius XM NFL Radio. "I want that. I want him to have that pressure. Because when we're in two wide receivers, he's our No. 2. And we're asking him to play outside. And we go three wide receivers, we ask him to move inside."
Wheaton, a third-year pro out of Oregon State, has recorded 59 receptions for 708 yards and two touchdowns in his first two seasons.
It was widely believed Bryant, not Wheaton, would line up opposite Brown to start the season in two-wide sets. But it appears Bryant will miss some time with an infection in his elbow. This could cause a bit of a rankings shakeup among the Steeler WRs and is definitely something to watch during camp and heading into the season. Bryant was our 18th ranked WR while Wheaton wasn't even getting drafted in 12-team leagues. Bryant also put up fringe WR2 numbers while only playing 60-percent of the snaps.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported earlier Tuesday that Bell was negotiating a settlement with the NFL to reduce his suspension to one or two games.
Bell was suspended in April for his August 2014 arrest on charges of driving under the influence and marijuana possession. Bell was arrested while driving to the airport for a preseason game with then-teammate LeGarrette Blount.
Blount, who now plays for the New England Patriots, was also charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession and will be suspended for the first game of the 2015 season. Bell was suspended an additional two games because of the DUI charge.
Bell is now our #1 RB in PPR formats and is coming in at #2 in standard formats, though brave owners should probably still take him first overall knowing that they can pair him with a replacement back. Maybe more importantly, Bell was a full go at training camp. There was some concern about a lingering knee injury, though it looks like that’s behind him now.
The Pittsburgh Steelers did not wear pads on the first day of camp, but the running backs didn't need contact to look the part Sunday as the team opened camp at Saint Vincent College.
LeVeon Bell looked noticeably explosive. He says he's in the best shape of his life, and he's not lying.
Stutter steps. Change-of-pace runs. Straight-line speed. Watching Bell run is like one big tease for the Steelers, who can't play him until Week 4 because of his marijuana suspension. Bell's right knee injury, which kept him out of a playoff loss to Baltimore, still needs additional pre-practice stretching and isn't completely the same as the left one. But this is the best Bell has felt in a while, he said. If he had to play today, he could.
The story said Mike Tomlin is challenging free agent DeAngelo Williams by saying Bell will run with the first team, even though Williams needs enough work to be ready to start Week 1 against New England. But the piece went on to say that Williams felt he got plenty of work on what was just the first day. The big fantasy question is do you take Bell early in drafts knowing he going to miss games. Nabbing Williams later in drafts will be nice insurance is you do take Bell, and if this story is any indication, Bell is on his way to another very productive year. Bell is sixth on our RB list due to missing time, but his ADP is 1.3, so if you want him, you likely will need to take him very early.
Steelers RBs Josh Harris and Dri Archer are both going into their second NFL seasons. But since Archer arrived as a third-round pick and Harris as an in-camp free agent signing, the expectation level is dramatically different as are the roles each player will try to fill. For Harris, it’s to show himself capable of being a traditional No. 2 running back during the length of LeVeon Bell’s suspension. Carry the football, catch the occasional pass, step up and deliver in pass protection. Because the Steelers figure to utilize more than one running back in every regular season game, Harris will have to convince the coaches he can be trusted to play on Sept. 10 in New England. Archer’s chore is similar, but he’ll be competing for a less traditional role. It makes little sense to expect someone who’s 5-foot-8 and 173 pounds to run the ball between the tackles and take on blitzing linebackers, and so the Steelers are expected to look for ways to maximize his difference-making speed.
There's no doubt Bell will carry the load once he's fully back from his suspension, which currently stands at three games. DeAngelo Williams figures to be the RB1 while Bell sits, and should have RB2 value in that time. The team seems concerned with Williams' injury history, so if Harris can step up, he figures to get some work in an attempt to try and keep Williams healthy. Williams can be had in the late rounds while Bell is still an attractive, early-first-round option because of his running and pass-catching abilities. Anyone who drafts Bell may want to consider reaching a little earlier for Williams. His current ADP is the 12th round in 12-team leagues.
Monday, June 29, 2015, 8:22am
Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller is a No. 3 or 4 option for the offense but nothing more.
He might’ve been a 1,000-yard receiver as a 25-year-old in Haley’s offense. Miller’s scoring rate is concerning. After 27 touchdowns in his first five years, Miller has 16 in his last five, for an average of 3.2 per year. He surpassed three scores in one of those five seasons.
The Steelers placed a waiver claim for tight end Tim Wright, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. When coupled with reported interest in second-round tight end Maxx Williams during the draft, the Wright claim indicates the franchise is at least exploring tight end alternatives.
The story went on to say Miller isn’t an elite tight end but he’s still very solid. He can put up 600 yards in this offense at age 32. And the truth is the Steelers still need him. He’s a safety valve for QB Ben Roethlisberger. In fact, we predict Miller for 588 yards and just under 3 TDs for 2015. However he's ranked 20th on our list and likely won't get a lot of draft attention in typical leagues. With Antonio Brown, LeVeon Bell and Martavis Bryant, that's a strong core of talent to monopolize the red zone touches.
Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams is considered a bridge back until LeVeon Bell returns from suspension, but he shouldn't be alone on that bridge. The Steelers will need just as much from Dri Archer as from Williams, who signed a two-year, $4 million deal worth $1.13 million in signing bonus money but no incentives in 2015.
Williams is exactly what the money suggests he is -- a veteran who can get you 10-12 carries at a respectable clip and nothing more.
There's not much to love about the idea of starting Williams against the Patriots, 49ers and Rams during Bell's three-game suspension, but we believe that the team will try to get him closer to 15 carries per game. He should be healthy to start the season, and there are reasons why he only averaged 12.2 carries per game in his career -- he was splitting time with Jonathan Stewart and QB Cam Newton carried much of the rushing load for the Panthers. The biggest concern is Williams' 3.5 YPC last season, but he battled injuries the whole way. We think he'll provide low-end RB2 numbers while Bell is sidelined, provided he's healthy.
The Steelers will begin the 2015 season without their top running back. The NFL has suspended RB LeVeon Bell for three games without pay for violating its substance-abuse policy, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
Bell has appealed the ruling, ESPN reported. The tailback has also been docked a fourth game check by the league, per Schefter.
If the suspension holds, Bell can take part in preseason games and training camp before serving his ban away from the club.
Bell’s suspension stems from a DUI charge last summer. He was sentenced to probation, and the charge, along with a marijuana possession count, can be removed from his record if he completes 15 months of service. His former Steelers teammate, LeGarrette Blount, has garnered a one-game suspension for the incident.
Obviously losing Bell for any stretch is a major blow to the Steelers offense. Bell emerged as one of the game’s star dual threats at the position in 2014, racking up more than 2,000 rushing-receiving yards. Ex-Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams figures to have a bigger role with Bell out of the Pittsburgh lineup to begin next season. This could drop Bell a few slots come draft time, but given his workload and last year's success, he should still be a very desirable draft-day selection.
Update: The deal is for $4 million over two years, but is effectively $2 million for one year, per Jason La Canfora.
LeVeon Bell is facing a 2-4 game suspension and the Williams signing makes Bell more appealing as a 1.01 or 1.02 pick since he can provide starter-caliber numbers while Bell is sidelined. Over the past two seasons, Williams has averaged 12.4 PPR fantasy points in the eight games where he's touched the ball at least 15 times. That equates to high-end RB2 numbers, so he should be able to carry the load while Bell is suspended.
Steelers star running back LeVeon Bell is expected to be suspended for the first two games of next season as a result of his August arrest on marijuana charges, sources told ESPN NFL Insider John Clayton.
Bell was shaping up as the top overall pick in 2015 fantasy drafts, but a potential two-game suspension will cause his draft stock to take a hit. It's difficult to draft a player who is going to miss at least two games in the first round.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back LeVeon Bell will spend 15 months on probation in a first-offender's program stemming from his arrest on marijuana possession and DUI charges with former teammate LeGarrette Blount.
Bell may face a two-game suspension from the league as a first time DUI offender.
"The knee is close to 100 percent," Bell said. "I'm probably about 85-90 percent, been able to run on it a little bit. So I'm getting back to work out a little."
Bell was the #2 RB (behind DeMarco Murray) in 2014, and held the #3 PPG in standard formats. He was #1 in both categories in PPR formats. He's a shoo-in to have a first round ADP in 2015 fantasy drafts.
Saturday, January 3, 2015, 7:03pm
Friday, January 2, 2015, 5:04pm
Steelers RB LeVeon Bell (knee, out) missed practice all week and is out for Week 18. With Bell out, Josh Harris should see the most touches in the Pittsburgh backfield. If he’s not able to run the ball effectively (which seems likely given Baltimore’s stout run defense), look for Ben Roethlisberger to air it out against a shaky secondary. Harris should be a decent cheap option in daily formats due to workload alone.
Harris had just nine carries for 16 yards in five regular-season games, but the 5-11, 210-pounder ripped off a 59-yard run last Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"Josh is ready," said Bell, who did some light running and rode a stationary bike on Wednesday. "I’ve been watching him all year and I know what he’s capable of. You got a little glimpse of him (in) the Bengals game. He’s explosive. He knows all of his assignments. He’s not out there thinking any more. He’s just playing football. He’s only going to get better."
The Ravens are tough to run on, so we have Harris projected for about 74 yards on 18.7 touches.
"It's too early to tell, but it doesn't look good," one source inside the organization told NFL Media's Aditi Kinkhabwala.
A Monday morning MRI on Bell's hyperextended right knee revealed no ligament damage, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, who reported that it will be "difficult" for Pittsburgh's star running back to suit up for this weekend's AFC playoff bout with Baltimore.
Jason La Canfora is also reporting Bell is 'likely out' for this weekend's game. Josh Harris is next up for the Steelers at RB, in what is a very tough matchup against the Ravens who are ranked third in allowing fantasy points to RBs. Dri Archer could also see more work, and the team is very close to signing free agent Ben Tate. Teams have had success throwing against the Ravens so that may be how Pittsburgh attacks this week if Bell is in fact out.
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