2017 Projections: Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers

In this series, I use an internal version of the Projection Machine to explore likely outcomes for offensive players on all 32 NFL teams.

The Projection Machine employs a top-down approach that builds on team-wide assumptions to develop expectations of offensive output. I will use staff averages to help guide the inputs underlying the projections. Check out this article for further information on the process used by the RotoViz team. All 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers projections are based on PPR scoring.

The Steelers won 11 games in 2016 and are expected to win 10 in the coming season. The RotoViz staff expects the team to produce a similar scoring margin and operate with consistent tendencies in 2017. Given these assumptions, the Projection Machine forecasts 613 passing and 413 rushing attempts.

Scoring Margin Pass Tendency Pace Tendency
League 75th percentile 1.00 0.02 0.85
League 50th percentile -1.25 -0.01 -0.85
League 25th percentile -3.75 -0.04 -2.70
Steelers 2015 0.75 0.05 -1.25
Steelers 2016 0.60 0.03 -0.25
Steelers 2017 (Projection) 0.75 0.03 -0.25

Le’Veon Bell Will Score a Lot of Points

Le’Veon Bell is the RotoViz staff’s second-highest projected player, at any position, behind only David Johnson. Both are transcendent enough to make many of our writers pivot away from Zero RB with the first or second pick. Bell led all players in points per game last season with 26.5. He’s projected with a monster workload in 2017, 66 percent of rushes and 15 percent of targets. His projection assumes high efficiency and expects over 350 total touches.

James Conner will backup Bell but will only be useful if the workhorse misses time.    

Bell, Le’Veon 273 1,256 9 87 71 626 2 324
Conner, James 66 291 2 23 17 134 0 74

The staff average projects Bell with 334 points. With a standard deviation of 26, per the RotoViz Draft Lab, his range of likely outcomes is between 308 and 360 fantasy points. Conner’s projections average 71 points with a standard deviation of 16.

Martavis Bryant is Overpriced

Antonio Brown has been fantasy’s WR1 for three seasons running. The RotoViz staff expects this trend to continue in 2017. His projection assumes a target share of 29 percent and high efficiency.

Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh’s WR2, is being drafted as a top-20 WR in many leagues. However, the staff is bearish on his 2017 prospects. Bryant missed the entire 2016 season after being suspended for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. This wasn’t Bryant’s first drug-related suspension and as we’ve learned, this is a major red flag.

The staff is also concerned about his workload. With Bell playing a significant role in the passing game and Brown absorbing such a high target share, there’s a limit to the volume that Bryant can earn. The staff projects him with a target share of 16 percent and strong efficiency. There’s a number of other options in the passing game. Eli Rogers had a quiet rookie season but could press Bryant for targetsSammie Coates and JuJu Smith-Schuster could also carve out roles. Absent Bell missing time, it’s hard to imagine many scenarios in which Bryant’s workload sees a significant boost. Further, efficiency plays a major role in his 2017 outlook, given his low share of targets. For this reason, the staff believes that Bryant would be the most adversely impacted Steeler if Ben Roethlisberger’s health became an issue.

Smith Schuster and Eli Rogers are the favorites to win Pittsburgh’s WR3 role. The staff gives a slight edge to Smith-Schuster, projecting him with 10 percent of targets and average efficiency.

Brown, Antonio 167 117 1,500 12.8 11 334
Bryant, Martavis 94 52 818 15.6 7 176
Smith-Schuster, JuJu 58 34 439 12.9 3 95

Brown’s average projection calls for 328 points and standard deviation of 10. Bryant is pegged for 175 points and a standard deviation of 24. This makes him more of a WR4 with WR3 upside. Schuster is projected with 64 points and a standard deviation of 19.1

Tough Sledding for Jesse James

Given the potency of Pittsburgh’s offense, one would expect the team’s tight end to be a fantasy contributor. Jesse James has the job firmly in his grasp but will need a lot of things to break his way. The staff projects him with a target share of 11 percent and moderate efficiency. This places him outside of TE2 consideration. It’s worth noting, however, that James and Ladarius Green combined for 94 targets in 2016, producing 145 fantasy points. Of course, the return of Bryant and a full season for Bell will lower this utilization. James could become relevant, but only under a unique set of circumstances.

James, Jesse 645 41 418 10.3 4 105

The staff average places James at 91 fantasy points and a standard deviation of 6.

Big Things for Big Ben

Ben Roethlisberger missed six games between 2015 and 2016, finishing as QB21 and QB18. However, he averaged 18 points per game in each of these years, one point less than 2014, a season in which he finished as QB5. He’s been a strong performer on a weekly basis, finishing as a starter in 60 percent of games since 2014. Of all quarterbacks playing in two or more seasons, between 2014 and 2016, only Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers recorded higher percentages.

roethlisberger weeks

Don’t let his overall finishes from the past two seasons sway you. If he remains healthy, he’ll be a top-8 QB. If he misses a handful of games, he’ll still provide you with solid production the rest of the season.

Roethlisberger, Ben 584 386 0.66 4,591 31 15 17 54 0 300

This projection is higher than the staff average of 283 points. With a standard deviation of 14, Roethlisberger’s range of likely outcomes is between 269 and 297 points.

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  1. Smith-Schuster’s presented projection assumes that he firmly controls the WR3 duties. However, some members of the staff see Rogers beating him out. This pulls down his staff average.   (back)
By Dave Caban | @DaveCabanFF | Archive

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