Head Coach: Mike Tomlin
In 2012, the Pittsburgh Steelers hired Todd Haley to call the offensive plays for Mike Tomlin’s squad, and from 2014-17 it created one of the most prolific unions in fantasy football. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and wideout Antonio Brown produced eye-popping numbers as a trio, and the latter two were first-round fantasy locks year over year.
Following another fine offensive showing, one that included the emergence of rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, Haley’s time had run out in the Steel City. Known to be stubborn and abrasive, the former Kansas City Chiefs head coach eventually moved on to the offensive coordinator position with the Cleveland Browns when it became evident his contract would not be renewed in Pittsburgh.
Offensive Coordinator: Randy Fichtner
Randy Fichtner replaces Haley and has earned his new role. An original member of the 2007 Tomlin inaugural coaching staff as a wide receivers coach, Fichtner became the quarterbacks coach in 2010 until his recent promotion to OC. In the eight seasons as Big Ben’s coach, Roethlisberger produced averages of 25 TDs and 3,970 yards per season, finishing a 16-game slate just twice in this time.
Prior to joining the Steelers, Fichtner called plays for Memphis and installed a spread offense that led to school records for yardage gained. The system helped make DeAngelo Williams a first-round pick for the Carolina Panthers.
The exact offensive approach to be utilized in 2018 is a little uncertain, but we can safely speculate Fichtner will listen to his veteran quarterback. They have a great relationship, and one of Haley’s faults was his unwillingness to be flexible in favor of Big Ben’s desire to use more no-huddle offense.
Pittsburgh ran plenty of spread and zone-read looks under Haley, so those plays won’t be much of a change for the cast under Fichtner. Before Haley, Bruce Arians was in charge of the offense. Perhaps Fichtner could take elements of both systems. It appears fair to believe there won’t be sweeping changes in the way the offense is called or the plays that will be run. Fichtner may use more common sense and not get as cute as Haley tended to do at critical times, though there is little reason to believe he will be extremely cautious, either. All of that matters little to fantasy gamers.
There is chemistry and continuity with Big Ben and Fichtner. Assuming impending free agent Le’Veon Bell is a Steeler in 2018, the core of the offense returns intact. All three of the Pro Bowlers in Big Ben, Brown and Bell then would be back, and the offensive line produced a matching Pro Bowl players, all of whom return.
It would be unfair to at least acknowledge the possibility of a major statistical regression. New offensive coordinators take time to feel their way through the flow of week-to-week planning possibly more than in any other area of coaching. All bets are off if somehow Bell doesn’t return. Roethlisberger is no stranger to injury, and he’ll be 36 before the season begins.
Despite there being a good deal of uncertainty, the continuity is the best factor in projecting little change from a fantasy perspective. Draft Bell and Brown in Round 1 just as the sun rises and sets every day. Roethlisberger is a fringe starter or ideal backup, and Smith-Schuster has the fantasy world by its tail as a risk-reward WR2. Everyone else in the offense is fighting for scraps and has accordingly erratic fantasy utility.