Ben Roethlisberger: fantasy football QB1 again?

      September 4, 2013 @ 17:38:52 PDT

The Pittsburgh Steelers weren't sure whether their starting running back in Week 1 would be Isaac Redman or Felix Jones before the practice week began. Now that they've cleared that up (at least for their first series or two). ...

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Markus Wheaton
Wheaton: soon-to-be lethal weapon

Whoever it is beyond this week is just keeping the seat warm for rookie Le'Veon Bell. Of course, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound load of a man from Michigan State has a sprained foot, an injury that's often problematic for much longer than coaches and players expect. Or is it hope?

And so, the Steelers may well be dealing with the kind of scenario in their backfield that led to perverse imbalance in 2012: a crappy group of running backs.

Meanwhile, Antonio Brown (especially) and Emmanuel Sanders have become reliable route-runners and pass-catchers. Markus Wheaton, the 'Burgh's third-round steal at wideout, is coming along quickly -- unlike Bell -- and may prove sooner than later that he belongs on the field all the time. Heck, Heath Miller (torn ACL) is off the PUP list!

Pittsburgh's offensive line has improved notably in the past two seasons, an observation supported by O-line data at Football Outsiders. It received a middle-of-the-pack grade, but Ben Roethlisberger expressed optimism earlier this summer that his youthful clan of bodyguards could become the team's best in years. (Although they haven't been too impressive in the preseason.)

And offensive coordinator Todd Haley, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette conveyed, seems to be a year wiser.

Roethlisberger, passing

It's all about keeping Big Ben upright, as's Jamison Hensley has enumerated. He's an MVP candidate as long as he's healthy, says's Gregg Rosenthal. The Steelers just have to convince him to take a seat whenever he's less than 100 percent. Or maybe just 67 percent.

Roethlisberger has attempted more than 32 passes and thrown for more than 250 yards per game in the past four seasons, including the last one, under the guidance of Haley. The 31-year-old threw two scoring tosses per game in his 13 contests last year.

Big Ben wasn't been ballyhooed as a great fantasy choice this summer. He was a consolation pick, a QB2 who elicited little excitement in fantasy drafts. But, as Rosenthal writes, "This year is set up to remind everyone just how good he can be."

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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