After the Steelers lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game Ben Roethlisberger hinted at retiring rather than returning in 2017.
“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options,” Roethlisberger told Pittsburgh’s “Cook and Poni Show” on Tuesday. “To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season.”
While this is not a definitive retirement statement it should make Pittsburgh fans nervous. As fantasy football players this could have a dramatic impact on the fantasy relevant players who play for Pittsburgh. Let’s try to look into our crystal ball and imagine a 2017 fantasy season without Ben Roethlisberger and specifically how it will impact the other players.
Le’Veon Bell, Running Back
Bell is one of the best, if not the best, running backs in the NFL. He does everything for this offense from running the ball to catching passes. It seems like he will be the least effected player if Roethlisberger does indeed hang them up. In 2015, when Roethlisberger missed weeks 4-7, Bell totaled 84 carries and 15 receptions. He amassed 449 yards on the ground (5.34 YPC) and another 53 through the air. This season when Roethlisberger missed week 7 Bell carried the ball 21 times for 81 yards and caught another 10 passes for 68 yards. While the offense could take a big hit without Roethlisberger, Bell still seems like a safe bet for 20-30 touches every week regardless of who is under center.
Antonio Brown, Wide Receiver
In 2015 Brown suffered mightily in the games Roethlisberger missed. In weeks 4 and 5, with Michael Vick under center, Brown totaled just 8 catches for 87 yards with 0 touchdowns. Things got only slightly better when the Steelers turned to Landry Jones in weeks 6 and 7 as Brown totaled 9 catches for 148 yards (124 of those yards came in week 7) and 0 touchdowns. This year with Jones again under center in week 7, Brown had a big game turning 7 catches into 106 yards but again 0 touchdowns. If Jones was able to spend an entire offseason practicing with Brown that should help improve their rapport. Brown would carry more risk than Bell if Roethlisberger retired but he’s still one of the best receivers in the game and has had some success with Landry under center.
Martavis Bryant, Wide Receiver
Bryant has been forgotten by a lot of fantasy players after being suspended for the entire 2016 season. It’s easy to forget just how good he was in 2015 as he totaled 756 yards and 6 touchdowns in just 10 games. He didn’t play in weeks 4 and 5 but did play in weeks 6 and 7 with Landry Jones. In those games he caught 9 passes for 182 yards and 3 touchdowns. He seemed to have a real connection with Landry which is not uncommon between the backup quarterback and number 2 receiver. Unfortunately Bryant and Landry got no time together in 2016 but at only 25 years old Bryant should have a bright future as Pittsburgh’s number 2 receiver assuming he can stay out of trouble.
Eli Rogers/Sammie Coats, Wide Receivers
Rogers was a bit part of the Steelers offense in 2016 catching just 48 passes for 594 yards. Unfortunately he missed week 7 when Landry Jones filled in for Roethlisberger though he did play in week 17 when the Steelers were resting their starters. In that game he caught 6 passes for 61 yards and 0 touchdowns and that was without Antonio Brown on the field. With Bryant likely returning and Brown still the undisputed number 1, it’s hard to see Rogers role increasing with or without Roethlisberger.
In the pre-season Coates was touted as the replacement for Martavis Bryant but drops and ineffectiveness plagued his season. In 14 games he caught just 21 passes for 435 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did play in week 7 with Landry Jones but caught just 1 pass for 4 yards. Coates is still only 23 years old but it’s hard to envision him making a huge leap next year in this offense.
Ladarius Green/Jesse James, Tight Ends
With Heath Miller retiring after the 2015 season fantasy experts fell in love with the potential of Green. Unfortunately he suffered an injury in preseason and didn’t make his debut until week 10. He never got fully healthy and only appeared in 6 games totaling 18 catches for 304 yards and 1 touchdown. Green is an intriguing player with plenty of upside if healthy, but he also carries lots of risk.
With Green sidelined for much of the year James played in all 16 games but turned that into just 39 catches for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tight ends are just not a big part of the Steelers offense. Whether that is play calling or Roethlisberger is anyone’s guess but in week 7 with Jones under center James caught just 2 passes for 18 yards. Even if Green can’t return to health James is hardly startable in any league.
Whatever Roethlisberger decides will have a major impact on this offense, either positively or negatively. Le’Veon Bell seems the most likely to continue to be a dominant player while Brown should still be a top wide receiver though he may take a slight hit in production, especially in regards to touchdowns. Martavis Bryant could see an increased role if he’s able to rebuild the chemistry with Jones and play an entire season. Every other offensive player is barely fantasy relevant and should likely be avoided in all formats.
Disagree with my analysis? Have your own predictions? Let me know in the comments below.