Pittsburgh Steelers
Is Vance McDonald a legit sleeper for your fantasy team? What else is on tap for the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into training camp? (Matt Sunday/DKPS)

The Pittsburgh Steelers missed the playoffs in 2018. They also lost Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell this offseason. While the sky may be falling, maybe that is somehow a good thing. Fewer distractions and fewer headaches might improve the Steelers. Maybe it won’t. Either way, the Steelers should have motivation to get back on top of the AFC North. Let’s take a peek at what the Pittsburgh Steelers will bring to the table in 2019!

3 Position Battles To Watch:

Running Back: James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell

This may not appear to be a battle but I feel like it very well could be. James Conner was awesome in 2018. There is no other way to put it. 973 rushing yards and 4.5 yards per carry will do just fine. However, he left the door open after getting injured down the stretch. Jaylen Samuels filled in admirably and brings an odd receiving skill set to the table. Samuels played running back, fullback, and tight end at NC State. I know the Steelers love him. They are going to love Benny Snell too. Downhill bruiser that fits the Steeler way. If you’re counting on James Conner to stuff the box score, I think you might be sadly mistaken. Don’t be shocked if the other two guys steal touches. I really hope that’s not the case because Conner is a fantasy staple for my team.

Wide Receiver: Diontae Johnson, Ryan Switzer, Eli Rogers, Donte Moncrief, James Washington

No Antonio Brown on the roster means somebody has to step it the hell up. James Washington was a disappointment as a rookie. Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t like him either. It’s not that shocking given the fact that Washington can’t run routes. That better improve this year. Diontae Johnson has a ton of pressure after he was acquired with the pick from the Raiders in the Brown trade. Ryan Switzer and Eli Rogers are going to duel for the slot job. Donte Moncrief will do Donte Moncrief things. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. Given the Steelers track record with developing receivers, it’s safe to say they probably have this under control.

Kicker: Chris Boswell, Matthew Wright

If you didn’t follow the Steelers closely, then you probably didn’t realize how bad Chris Boswell was down the stretch. I think he was one missed kick away from getting cut. In 2018, Boswell went 13-20 (65 percent) on field goal attempts. The year prior, Boswell went 35-38 (92 percent). The Steelers started going for it more for the sole fact that they didn’t trust Boswell. Matthew Wright comes in from UCF with a chance to steal the job. Boswell better get his head on straight. The leash is a short one.

Ready To Breakout: JuJu Smith-Schuster

There are two ways you can look at JuJu Smith-Schuster. More double teams are coming equals a worse season. More targets coming equals a great opportunity. I’m going with the latter. Smith-Schuster has emerged as a number one receiver. I don’t think he is done growing. JuJu is still just 22-years-young. He was voted the team MVP for a reason. Monster season incoming!

Rookie To Watch: Devin Bush

It has to be Devin Bush. Talk about a decimated defense when Ryan Shazier went down. It hasn’t been the same since. Plug Devin Bush in and all of the problems are erased. Bush has closing speed that the other Steeler linebackers just don’t have. Bush isn’t just the rookie to watch. There is a real argument he is there most important player. Defenses crumble without a star middle linebacker. Bush isn’t going to let this unit crumble any longer.

Fantasy Sleeper: Vance McDonald

I can’t stress enough that more targets are available. I don’t just mean with Antonio Brown gone. Vance McDonald was in a timeshare at tight end with Jesse James. Now James is in Detroit after inking a free agent deal with the Lions. McDonald has a clear path to work the middle of the field with no competition. McDonald caught 50 passes for 610 yards and 4 touchdowns. If those numbers improve even slightly, he is a reliable starting fantasy option.