For the first time in nine seasons, Ben Roethlisberger will be without Antonio Brown. With AB moving on to Oakland, Roethlisberger's fantasy football stock has taken a sizable hit.
While Big Ben is rarely a top five quarterback by average draft position (ADP) or preseason rankings, he can outperform his expectations as his QB3 ranking from last season shows. Now that Roethlisberger is being drafted as QB17 according to ADP, it appears that the hate has gone too far.
For starters, while Roethlisberger has also officially lost running back Le'Veon Bell, last season proved he doesn't need his trusty, all-purpose back to put up big numbers. If anything, Bell's season-long holdout enhanced Roethlisberger for fantasy purposes, as he reached career highs in passing yards (5,129) and passing touchdowns (34).
And while Big Ben has lost Brown, it's not like he doesn't have another star wide receiver waiting in the wings. JuJu Smith-Schuster outperformed Brown in both receptions (111 to 104) and receiving yards (1,426 to 1,297) last season, but lost the touchdown battle 15 to 7. With Brown gone now, expect Smith-Schuster to maintain the gaudy catch and yardage totals while also having a career year in the TD department.
Beyond Smith-Schuster, Roethlisberger will have other weapons at his disposal. James Washington may be ready to make the second-year leap, after the 2018 second-round pick failed to do much in limited playing time last season. The Steelers are also pretty excited about rookie receiver Diontae Johnson out of Toledo, who has been an offseason standout. Veteran Donte Moncrief likely has the lead on both, however, as the team's No. 2 WR, while Ryan Switzer and Eli Rogers are headed for a camp battle to make the roster.
Beyond a deep wide receiver group, Roethlisberger also has a pair of useful tight ends in Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble, along with a running back in James Conner who caught 55 passes for 497 yards last season. Long story short, Roethlisberger has no shortage of weapons for the 2019 season.
While Roethlisberger's stats without Brown have not been impressive over the years, the sample size is very small. Since becoming a full-time player in 2011, Brown has only missed four games in which Roethlisberger was the starter. Three of those came before last season, when Smith-Schuster officially emerged as a star talent.
So while Roethlisberger is now 37, one only has to look around the league at some other quarterbacks who have defied aging like few have at the position before. It's likely Roethlisberger's numbers will take a hit compared his career-best 2018 season, but the Steelers should still pass a ton this year and Roethlisberger has plenty of weapons to secure another top 10 finish in fantasy.
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