Fantasy Outlook: Can Ben Roethlisberger Repeat 2014 Success?
Whether it’s a blog, an article from a fantasy football website, or a podcast, the names Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees are the most referenced when it comes to drafting quarterbacks this season. However, after a career season in 2014, Ben Roethlisberger is a name that deserves to be in the top-five quarterback conversation for 2015. With all of his favorite weapons from last season returning, Big Ben should have another highly productive season if he can produce while Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant serve their suspensions. The big question is will Roethlisberger build off his 2014 performance and surpass fantasy mainstays Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, or will his production slump due to a tough schedule and the early absences of Bell and Bryant?
In 2014, Roethlisberger set career highs in attempts (608), yards (4,952) and touchdowns (32) in offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s pass-happy offense. In addition, he amassed 408 completions, threw only nine interceptions and averaged 8.15 yards per attempt. His favorite target in 2014, Antonio Brown, was the recipient of 129 of Roethlisberger’s passes, 13 of which were for touchdowns. Le’Veon Bell caught 83 of Ben’s passes, three of which were for touchdowns. Thanks to his supporting cast, Big Ben’s numbers were good for a fifth place finish among quarterbacks in fantasy (306.2).
While the arrow may be pointing up for Roethlisberger based on his 2014 performance, 2015 is a new season with new challenges. First, Roethlisberger will be without duel threat Le’Veon Bell for the first two games. While Bell was an integral part of the passing game, it was his success running the ball that got teams to stack the box and create opportunities in the passing game. With Bell out, Roethlisberger will need free agent acquisition DeAngelo Williams to run effectively and contribute in the passing game. Roethlisberger will also be without 2014 breakout wide receiver Martavis Bryant for the first four games of the season. In only 10 games in 2014, Bryant caught 26 passes for 549 yards and eight touchdowns. While fourth on the team in targets, Bryant accounted for more receiving touchdowns than Bell, Markus Wheaton, and Lance Moore combined last season.
Another concern for potential Big Ben owners is the Steelers’ 2015 schedule. In 2014, Pittsburgh faced two top 10 pass defenses, the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns. However, their schedule this season includes six top 10 pass defenses from last season; San Francisco, San Diego, Cleveland, Seattle, Denver and Kansas City. None of those defenses surrendered more than 225 yards to opposing quarterbacks on average. Two teams – San Francisco and Cleveland – finished first and second, respectively, in interceptions. Seattle led the league in pass defense with an average of 185.6 yards per game. While San Francisco lost some key pieces on defense, the others either kept the core of their defenses or improved through free agency or the draft.
At his current average draft position of 42nd overall, Big Ben is the sixth quarterback being selected in standard scoring leagues. While early for a quarterback not named Rodgers or Luck, Roethlisberger has plenty of upside thanks to the system he plays in and the weapons at his disposal. For the person who drafts Antonio Brown early, it is highly recommended that you stack your scoring and draft Roethlisberger when you deem appropriate.