The Steelers have built this offense from the outside in. They went and got all the weapons you need in Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, and Pat Freiermuth. In fact, they had more than they needed so they traded Chase Claypool. Kenny Pickett is looking like the QB of the future so they really just need to beef up the offensive line and they can get back to contending. Which is something that Mike Tomlin has grown quite accustomed to.
With this series, we are taking a look at each NFL team to gauge the direction of the offense from a dynasty fantasy football perspective. Is this team gearing up for a Super Bowl run? Are they in the midst of a rebuild? Are they considering blowing it up? We’ll take all of that into account as well as the current contracts, upcoming free agents, and 2023 NFL draft class to give you our best recommendations on how to handle these weapons in your dynasty fantasy football leagues.
BUY - Attempt to acquire this player at or slightly above market value
HOLD - The player is likely more valuable than the market indicates. Hold them if you have them or try to acquire them at a discount.
SELL - The perceived value for this player is higher than the projected remaining value in your average dynasty league. Cash out now.
SELL/DROP - Depending on the depth of the league, always try to sell guys before dropping. But this player is likely not worth the bench spot he’s occupying so you might need to just drop them.
*Contract information is proved courtesy of Spotrac.com*
Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 Dynasty Fantasy Football Preview
Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback
The Steelers have two quarterbacks under contract for 2023
Mitch Trubisky age 29
Contract: Trubisky is under contract for this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent. He can be released for $2.6 mil in dead cap with $8 million in savings.
Outlook: Trubisky is listed first here because he’s the highest-paid QB on the team. I find it hard to believe they will be willing to pay the backup double what they pay the starter but there have been some reports that they might keep Mitch on board.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - This was realistically Trubisky’s last chance to earn a starting job after a brief reset in Buffalo. And the rookie beat him out. He’ll likely bounce around as a backup but he has next to no value in dynasty leagues at this stage.
Kenny Pickett - age 24
Contract: Kenny Pickett was a first round rookie pick in 2022 so he is under contract through 2025 and they can keep him on his fifth-year option for 2026 as well.
Outlook: Kenny Pickett got a lot of praise from a real-life football standpoint as he was able to step in and run the offense as a decent decision maker but, from a fantasy standpoint, he was not impressive. Averaging 185 passing yards a game while throwing 7 TDs and 9 picks is not going to cut it. This year they need to see what he can actually do.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - In single QB leagues I don’t mind selling or dropping honestly - he needs to take big strides to be a guy you can actually start. In Superflex, you hold because you won’t get a decent return on him for what you paid and there is still some upside there. With Mac Jones we saw him have a promising season as a rookie just like Pickett did then, once the gloves were off, he went the complete opposite direction (granted, with terrible playcalling). We are now going to see what Kenny Pickett can really do this year after a very conservative season. Our example, Mac Jones, was statistically better than Pickett in both of his seasons so far but Kenny Pickett has something Jones doesn’t have - the ability to run if need be. We aren’t talking about Lamar Jackson or Jalen Hurts here but he can certainly move at the level of guys like Joe Burrow or maybe even Patrick Mahomes.
Free Agents: Mason Rudolph
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
The good news is there is zero concern level for Pickett to lose this job right now. Trubisky accepted his role as a backup and even reportedly helped Pickett over the second half of the year and, if Mitch gets the boot, they will simply be looking for a cheaper option to backup the starter. So you can rest easy holding onto Pickett.
Pittsburgh Steelers Running Backs
The Steelers have two running backs under contract.
Najee Harris - age 24
Contract: Najee Harris was a first round pick so he is under contract through 2024 with the option to pick up his fifth year in 2025.
Outlook: Najee was an older prospect so he actually turns 25 next month (meaning, if they pick up his 5th-year option, he won’t hit free agency until he turns 28). He’s pretty locked into the Steelers so we can only hope they go after some offensive linemen this off-season,
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - If he were younger he might be a buy because there’s a lot to like but the wheels do fall off RBs early in this league. For now, you hold or buy at market value if you are competing now. RB coach Eddie Faulkner has told us time and time again that Najee Harris can do everything and that he’s the locked-in RB1. Some folks will look at the down year in 2022 but it wasn’t even that bad considering he injured his foot, they changed QBs, the line was bad, and the playcalling was worse. Najee should be healthy, we expect Pickett to take a step forward, and they should make improvements to the line this off-season. Why they haven’t fired play caller Matt Canada is beyond my comprehension but we can’t have everything now, can we?
Jaylen Warren - age 24
Contract: Jaylen Warren was signed as an undrafted free agent so they have him under contract through 2024 and can bring him back as a restricted free agent in 2025.
Outlook: When you come from Day 3 of the NFL draft and beyond, you have one goal - carve out a role. You do that and you have a job. Then who knows - maybe that job can expand? For Warren, he seems to have proven his worth as a reliable pass blocker which means pass snaps. And we like pass snaps.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - If you have Najee Harris you would be smart to roster this guy. But, even if you don’t, we’re willing to grab him for very cheap or add him off waivers. Najee has looked a little dicey on the injury front and Warren already has his foot in the door as a reliable pass guy so he could be in for a decent role if anything happens. And maybe his efforts translate into another job elsewhere at some point, who knows? The main goal of stashing him is to sell to the Najee owner at some point but, if you have deep enough benches, you could do worse.
Free Agents: Benny Snell Jr.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
The starting running back is set - that’s Najee Harris. And Jaylen Warren is reliable on pass downs. But they need to fill out this roster somehow. Benny Snell served as the backup bruiser back but he’s been fairly inefficient so I imagine they look elsewhere. Maybe in the later rounds of the draft even. If they can add a complimentary short yardage back and maybe a young guy who plays special teams, that would fill out the depth chart.
Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receivers
The Steelers have four wide receivers under contract for 2023 with five signed to reserve/future deals.
Diontae Johnson - age 26
Contract: Johnson signed a two-year extension that will keep him with the team through 2024.
Outlook: Johnson has flashed his talent so we know he’s capable - he just needs the offensive support. Catching zero touchdown passes in a year when Kenny Pickett only threw seven isn’t going to do it for us.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - For fantasy football purposes, it’s honestly a good thing that Johnson didn’t get a massive contract extension for multiple years. This two-year extension allows him to get paid a good amount of guaranteed money, see what Kenny Pickett has, and then hit free agency again at age 28 which is still right at the age apex for wide receivers. It’s a bet on himself. And we’re willing to bet on him in dynasty at his current depressed value after this zero score season. If Pickett doesn’t figure it out, that doesn’t mean Diontae is dust. Just look at the folks who bought Keenan Allen a couple of years ago. We are betting that individual talent will win out in the long run. Might have to wait for a little though.
George Pickens - age 21
Contract: George Pickens was a rookie in 2022 so he’s under contract through 2025.
Outlook: Pickens played in all 17 games and finished as the WR39 in PPR - not ideal but there was also a lot to like. A rookie cracking 800 yards and scoring 4 TDs with these QBs is obviously promising. But the biggest confirmation came from the trade of Chase Claypool. That opened the door for George Pickens to be the split end and play in two WR sets.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - The issue for me here is the hype has surpassed the reality to a certain degree. He still scored fewer fantasy points than Tyler Boyd. And Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth are still there. He made some flashy contested catches, much like the Chargers‘ Mike Williams but it is difficult to bank on those plays. Would much rather see him getting more separation. Popular sites like KeepTradeCut have Pickens listed in the WR2 range for now. If you are competing now and can trade him for an actual WR2, I would do that. Otherwise, I’m holding to see if Kenny Pickett can take that step forward. If Pickett isn’t the guy, things could painful as Pickett is tied to this team for three more years.
Gunner Olszewski - age 26
Contract: Olszewski is under contract for 2023 though he can be released for a little over $600K in dead cap with $2 million in savings.
Outlook: At this stage, Gunner’s path to making the roster is as a kick returner so it will boil down to whether they want to retain Steven Sims or not. Sims can be retained as a restricted free agent for around $2.6 million or he would need to be signed to a new deal.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - He was active for virtually all of last year and didn’t do much so I don’t expect that to change all of a sudden. He can be dropped.
Calvin Austin - age 23
Contract: Calvin Austin was drafted in 2022 so he’s under contract through 2025.
Outlook: What Calvin Austin lacks in size he makes up for in athleticism as he has 95th percentile speed, burst, and agility per PlayerProfiler. If you are going to take a stab on Day 3 guys, it might as well be the ones with some juice.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL - I honestly don’t like taking stabs on Day 3 guys whenever I can avoid it. And one of the biggest issues is opportunity. Even with Chase Claypool gone, they have two full-time WRs and an every-down tight end which relegated Austin to slot duty at best. When is his shot to be an every-down player? If I have Austin, I’m looking at them lingering name recognition from some predraft hype along with the Claypool trade and I’m cashing out now. Give me a third round pick that I can use on a guy drafted in the first three rounds of the actual NFL draft.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
The Steelers gave had so much success drafting wide receivers, especially in the later rounds, that it’s almost criminal for them NOT to use that ability. Here’s what I imagine they do this off-season. You have Johnson and Pickens on the outside. Austin can play slot. I see them cutting Gunner Olszewski and using that money to pay Steven Sims, either on his RFA deal or a two-year deal. That’s your return man. From there use a mid to late draft pick in a big-bodied WR that can play split end or just sign a capable vet to rotate with Austin. Boom, WR room filled.
Pittsburgh Steelers Tight Ends
The Steelers have two tight ends under contract and one signed to reserve/future contracts.
Pat Freiermuth - age 24
Contract: Freiermuth is under contract through 2024.
Outlook: Freiermuth put together another solid season, finishing as the TE7 in PPR. Where he struggled was the same place the Steelers as a whole struggled - finding the endzone. He only scored 2 touchdowns and the Steelers as a team tied for last in passing touchdowns with 17.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL - Now, don’t just sell Pat Freiermuth just to sell him. Esspeisly if you are competing now and don’t have a top-five tight end - there just aren’t enough of them out there. But we have to be logical here. In a 10-12 team league with one tight end spot, if your tight end isn’t top 5-6, you have a below-average tight end. And, if we like Diontae Johnson and we like George Pickens, that’s hard to leave a lot of upside for Muth.
The last time a team had two top 24 WRs and a top 5 tight end it was the 2013 Broncos and Peyton Manning threw 55 TDs. I’m not banking on Kenny Pickett to do something like that any time soon. If you have a good reason to fade one of those WRs and prop up Muth, more power to you. But I’m concerned and there is a lot of hype/value around Pat Freiermuth. The most popular fantasy football podcast, The Fantasy Footballers, will tell you the Muth is Luth but I’m not so sure he is just yet.
He needs to be a top two target on his team to truly be “Luth”. So you might be able to get a huge return for him based on the hype that doesn’t materialize. If Kenny Picket or Matt Canada sucks again then people will make excuses but excuses don’t help you win your fantasy league.
Connor Heyward - age 24
Contract: Hayward is under contract through 2025
Outlook: Hayward is a blocking tight end which is valuable in real life but not so much in fantasy.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - He does not need to be rostered.
Free Agents: Zach Gentry
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
Honestly, if they just bring back Zach Gentry on a reasonable deal then they will have pretty much what they need to proceed. They could add depth but it would likely be someone that also plays special teams. If they don’t bring Gentry back, they need to add a backup with at least some pass-catching chops but don’t expect them to break the bank on that. It’s only in case Muth goes down.
Follow Andrew Cooper on Twitter @CoopAFiasco for more NFL and fantasy football insights and stay tuned as we hit on all 32 NFL teams in this series leading into NFL free agency!
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