The days of power running in the Steel City are gone. The former “run-first” offense has transformed into a “pass first, run maybe” offense under offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. Maybe the Steelers should take a look at their own stats and run a little more often. In the two games they won, they gained 98 and 138 yards on the ground. In the three games they lost, they rushed for 60, 69, and 60 yards. Even with tremendous talent in the passing offense, this team must be able to run the ball well for their game plan to work. When they don’t get it done, it affects the entire offense, as we will see with the microscope’s revealing powers …
|Team Stats (numbers in parentheses are NFL Ranking)|
|Rushing Offense||83.0 (26)||4 (t10)|
|Passing Offense||253.0 (3)||2 (t28)|
|Rushing Defense||72.3 (4)||1 (t2)|
|Passing Defense||231.7 (26)||5 (t21)|
|Turnover Stats||Upcoming Schedule|
|7 takeaways (t20)
11 giveaways (t27)
-4 overall (t25)
This week’s game in Denver is not as important as one might think. If they drop this game and go 2-4 heading into the bye week, they could be as far as 3 games back of the Ravens after returning. But they hold a 2-1 division record, and the schedule gets much easier after a week 9 trip to Seattle. In a weak division, the Steelers can certainly crawl back into it. And games against Arizona, Cleveland, Cincy, and Oakland should all produce some happy fantasy campers.
Tommy Maddox, QB – Tommy Maddox made the run from XFL MVP to NFL Stardom in two short years. Some fantasy owners are saying he should make a run right back after throwing 0 TD’s and 4 INT’s in the last two games. Don’t panic people – Maddox is a good quarterback. But his success is dependent on getting some kind of running game going. When this team runs, it wins. And in the team’s wins, Maddox has 4 TD’s and 1 INT. In losses, he has 1 TD and 7 INT’s. So do you continue to start him? Only if the Steelers can get the running game going.
Charlie Batch, QB – Batch has no real value right now in fantasy-land, but if Maddox keeps throwing the ball to the wrong team, Bill Cowher will not hesitate to make a QB change. Just ask Kordell Stewart.
Amos Zereoue, RB – Zereoue has become the feature back in this offense, however he still shares carries with Jerome Bettis. This is a classic RBBC situation as I described in this week’s article. Zereoue is the speed guy. While he may put up good yardage and catch a few passes, he may lose some touchdowns to Bettis. Zereoue is not a bad play most weeks, but check your matchups carefully. Better rushing defenses will be able to bottle him up.
Jerome Bettis, RB – The Bus may not come out of the garage as much as it used to, but Bettis is clearly the goal line back. If you’re lucky, he could still be on your waiver wire – and he’s a good pickup for the occasional TD’s he will score. I think the Steelers are also starting to realize that when Bettis is more involved in the game, the offense runs better overall.
Hines Ward, WR – Ward has become a fantasy machine over the last two years. In 2002, he put up points every week and had 5 catches or more in 14 of 16 games. He is one of the most reliable performers in the game and looks like he is ready to have another great season.
Plaxico Burress, WR – Although Burress is a little more inconsistent than Ward, he also has the potential to put up some monster stats two or three games a year. He has been a great play thus far and should continue to be. He will have a few games like last week’s 1-for-19 against the Browns, but you have to keep playing him to take advantage of some big scores.
Antwaan Randle-El, WR – He had a few decent outings last year as a rookie, but Randle-El does not really get enough catches in Pittsburgh’s offense to make him anything more than a third WR on your fantasy squad. He had a kickoff return for a touchdown last year, so he does boost the value of the Steelers’ special teams a bit.
Jay Riemersma, TE – Riemersma was looking like he might have some value this year, and then he injured his shoulder in week 4 against Tennessee. He’s probably available and could be a good pickup after the bye week, if he’s ready to return.
Defense/Special Teams – This is still the strength of this team, and Joey Porter is essentially the quarterback of this defense. As Porter returns from the gunshot wound he suffered right before the season, the defense is starting to come together. The Steelers have given up a lot of points, but their defense is ranked #1 in yardage allowed. They have given up 4 touchdowns this year on interception and punt returns, and other turnovers have given the opposition a short field. Don’t let the point totals deceive you – this defense is playing well.
The Bottom Line
The Steelers have looked bad two weeks in a row, but there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this team. If they can run the ball better and avoid turnovers, they will be one of the AFC’s better teams. There are several good fantasy plays on this team and you need to ride them through a few bad weeks so you can take advantage of the mostly good weeks.
Next Week … We put the microscope on the St. Louis Rams. I will try to sort through what is now the scrap heap of a once-great team and see who’s worth keeping and who you can bench or just plain cut. Sort of like a Fantasy Football Junkyard Wars, if you will.