Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5; 1st in AFC North)
Ben Roethlisberger – It wasn’t too long ago that the Steelers had one of the best receiving corps in the league. Then WR Martavis Bryant was suspended for the season, TE Ladarius Green couldn’t get on the field consistently in 2016, and WR Sammie Coates no-showed for the final three months of the season. By the end of the year, Big Ben could only consistently trust Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in the passing game. The Steelers transitioned from a pass-heavy team in the first half of the year to a Bell-centric squad in the second half. With the Steelers leaning heavily on Bell, Big Ben didn’t attempt 37+ passes in his final six regular season games (Weeks 11-16) and in the first two playoff games before he attempted 47 passes in their blowout loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship. Roethlisberger attempted 37+ passes in six of his first eight games (Weeks 1-10) of 2016. Big Ben averaged 26.3 FPG (4th at the position) in Weeks 1-10 compared to just 18.0 (26th) in Weeks 11-16. For the year, he completed 328/509 passes (64.4%) for 3819 yards (7.5 YPA), 29 TDs, and 13 INTs in 14 games, while adding 16/14/1 rushing. He missed just one game in the middle of the season despite undergoing surgery to clean up a meniscus tear, and he sat out the season finale with the Steelers locked into the #3 seed. Big Ben averaged 22.7 FPG, ranking 7th at the position behind Kirk Cousins. For a 13-year veteran, Big Ben once again had baffling home/road splits in 2016, averaging 31.2 FPG at Heinz Field and 16.3 FPG on the road. He also averaged 8.6 YPA at home versus 7.01 YPA on the road. Roethlisberger left open the possibility of retirement after the season, but we don’t see him stepping away in his 35-year-old season even though he has taken lots of hits and endured plenty of injuries in his 13 seasons. Roethlisberger certainly wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen in recent years, but he definitely had one of his weakest groups of receivers in recent memory. Big Ben will be in the QB1 conversation for fantasy drafts next summer, but the statuses of Bryant and Green will likely determine if he’s a middle-round pick or a mid-to-late-round pick.
Le’Veon Bell – The Steelers absolutely ran Bell into the g...