The Juggernaut Index is our annual attempt to rank every NFL team for fantasy purposes. We're not concerned with real-life wins and losses here, only fantasy potential. These rankings rely entirely on hard, incontrovertible math. They are not to be questioned.
In many 10-team drafts, there won't be any Steelers selected in the first four rounds. Pittsburgh doesn't really offer first-tier fantasy talent.
Instead, they offer quantity.
Those ADPs are all consistent with the Yahoo! experts ranks, too. Parker is our No. 23 running back and Roethlisberger is the No. 6 quarterback. Holmes and Ward are ranked No. 17 and No. 23 at wide receiver.
Let's all just agree that the following statements are true, and then move on:
1) Parker had the least-useful 1300-yard season of all-time last year. He couldn't find the end zone after Week 8, and he was injured early in Week 16;
2) When healthy, Holmes is nearly uncoverable, and he's one of the league's premier big-play threats;
3) After 2006, we all badly underestimated Roethlisberger. None of us projected 32 TDs and only 11 interceptions, yet that's what Big Ben delivered;
4) In 2007, Ward played through injuries that probably would have killed Steve Smith (MCL, PCL, meniscus). For that he deserves your respect. But he's also 32, and he's clearly an injury/decline risk.
OK, that was simple enough. Now we'll deal with a few of the newer Steelers, like Mendenhall, Sweed, and McBeam.
Despite the conspicuous lack of touchdowns last year, Parker would be much higher in our RB rankings if Rashard Mendenhall hadn't fallen to Pittsburgh on draft day. Mendenhall has the strength, vision and quickness to be a full-workload NFL back. Evans and Buser debated the relative merits of Parker and Mendenhall last month in Spin Doctors, and you're encouraged to revisit the discussion. The bottom line is that Mendenhall is going to get work, and his touches are likely to increase as the season unfolds.
Here's offensive coordinator Bruce Arians describing the rookie, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"He's violent running down there," Arians said. "He made the one guy miss and he ran over the safety. There's going to be one of those guys you have to take care of yourself, and he's starting to understand that and get yards" ... "I have no problems using him in any phase right now, whether it's first-and-10, short-yardage, goal-line or third-down. But we're still two weeks away. He'll find his actual role."
That role is likely to involve short-yardage situations, and we could also see Mendenhall and Parker in two-back formations. Mendenhall's current ADP is 83.2 (RB34), so you don't have to spend an early pick to acquire his services. Unless you're Brad Evans.
The other Pittsburgh rookie of interest is receiver Limas Sweed, the 53rd overall pick in the draft. At 6-5, Sweed is the big target that Roethlisberger asked for during the offseason. According to Rivals, he's also "the best blocking receiver in this class and one of the best blocking receivers over the last decade." Unfortunately, Sweed has been dropping too many passes lately, and he hasn't yet done enough to overtake Nate Washington.
Here's more from the Post-Gazette:
Sweed, of course, doesn't have to be an immediate contributor, nor is he expected to be right away. He will begin the season as the No. 4 receiver, behind Ward, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington.
But he will be the backup to Holmes at split end -- or X receiver -- a big-play position that features more deep routes.
So there's hope, but Sweed begins the season as a dynasty flier, not as a rookie you need to reach for in public leagues.
Tight end Heath Miller is No. 9 in our position rankings, but you're strictly looking for touchdowns there. Miller has been a nice red zone target (18 TDs in 120 career receptions), but he averaged only 37.7 yards per game last season.
Pittsburgh was the 12th highest-scoring fantasy defense last year (140 points), and we've ranked them No. 10 for 2008. The best of the IDP plays are James Harrison (98 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 6 FFum), James Farrior (96 tackles, 6.5 sacks) and Troy Polamalu (58 tackles in 11 games).
And finally, we should note that the locals have never seemed too pleased with Steely McBeam, and this fact reflects well on the people of Pittsburgh. Still, like any great epic hero, Steely has a fascinating backstory. Please enjoy...
2007 Pittsburgh team stats
Rushing: 135.5 Y/G
Passing: 191.9 Y/G
Points per game: 24.6
Red Zone possessions and TDs: 55, 32
'08 Schedule strength: .598
The rest of the Index...
32) Chicago, 31) Tennessee, 30) San Francisco, 29) Miami, 28) Baltimore, 27) NY Jets, 26) Oakland, 25) Tampa Bay, 24) Atlanta, 23) Houston, 22) Kansas City, 21) Buffalo, 20) Carolina, 19) Detroit, 18) Seattle, 17) Denver, 16) Washington, 15) St. Louis, 14) Minnesota, 13) Arizona, 12) Jacksonville, 11) Cincinnati, 10) Philadelphia, 9) Pittsburgh
Photos via Getty Images