Much like the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers boasted one of the NFL’s premier defenses in 2019. What will 2020 bring in terms of IDP Fantasy? Let’s find out.
Cameron Heyward’s numbers are incredible for a DT. Of course, the question must be asked: can he continue to perform at this level at 31 years of age?
Even without taking age into consideration, it is almost certain Heyward will be regressing in 2020. Last season, Heyward totaled 83 tackles. As we’ve established, tackles are key to any IDP format and as such Heyward was a borderline DL1 on the strength of those 83 tackles (51 solo, 32 assists). However, that number is an outlier. The previous season saw him total 51 tackles while only being onto field for 43 less snaps. The Steelers run a 3-4 defensive scheme, meaning Heyward’s primary job as a DT is simply to fill in gaps, not necessarily make the tackle. Of course, Heyward remains a threat to get to the QB (9 sacks in 2019, around his average), a number I don’t see regressing too much in 2020.
While Heyward remains a must-own in DL start leagues, there are better options to be had among DL in regular IDP leagues. There are those who will look at Heyward’s 2019 season and see a DL1, but taking into account regression from his ridiculous tackles numbers he’s best served as a high-end DL2 with upside.
Cameron Heyward 2019 Stats
Total Tackles 83 (51 Solo)
QB Hits: 23 (33 Pressures)
Pass Deflections: 6
Forced Fumble: 1
Fumble Recovery: 1
Heyward is just one part of Pittsburgh’s fearsome front seven. Stephon Tuitt remains one of the most underrated DE’s in the game when he is healthy. Availability is the best ability, though, and therein lies the problem; he has yet to make it a full season since his rookie year. A torn pectoral muscle ended what looked to be a career-best season last year. On the bright side, Tuitt can be had for practically free and there’s no doubt he is a load to handle when he’s on the field. When he is on the field he is a load to handle. Tuitt makes a phenomenal high-upside stash. If he’s able to pick up where he left off last year, he’s going to be a league-winner thanks to his value.
T.J Watt is a machine that does not stop… his motor runs at 110% all year, and you can’t get much better than this when it comes to consistency. The best way to describe him? He’s a Category 7 Hurricane.
Here is his three year average since breaking on the scene in 2017:
T.J Watt Three Year Average
Total Tackles 59 (42 Solo)
Sacks 11.5 Sacks
QB Hits: 24 (32 Pressures)
Pass Deflections: 6
Forced Fumble: 5
Fumble Recovery: 1.3
As you can see, he’s a monster and there’s no reason to think he’s slowing down any time soon. Watt finished 8th overall in standard IDP scoring and has every chance to improve in 2020 as his game continues to improve. Want even more reasons to be sold on Watt? The Pittsburgh secondary is elite, something which will give him even more sack opportunities.
I fully expect the Holy Grail play from him this year, and if you don’t recall what that is let me remind you. The Holy Grail is a sack of the QB with a forced fumble, followed by a fumble recovery and then the scoop and score TD (Total Stack Play = Solo Tackle, TFL, Sack, FF, FR, TD).
Another name to remember from this LB core is Devin Bush. Bush turned heads as a rookie. His 2019 stats are below.
Devin Bush 2019 Stats
Total Tackles:109 (72 Solo)
QB Hits: 2 (4 Pressures),
Pass Deflections: 4
Forced Fumble: 1
Fumble Recovery: 4
The young Michigan product was coveted by many teams entering the draft, and he proved why with Top-20 IDP season for linebackers in his first year. Let’s not overcomplicate things: both of these linebackers are a BUY BUY BUY at their prices. If you’re looking for a surefire stud that is sure to be among the league leaders in overall IDP points you’ll have to pay up for Watt, while Bush remains a value pick and should make for a solid LB2 with LB1 upside as soon as this season.
Bud Dupree rounds out the relevant linebacker core, and he really found himself in 2019.
Bud Dupree 2019 Stats
Total Tackles: 68 (49 Solo)
QB Hits: 17 (28 Pressures)
Pass Deflections: 3
Forced Fumble: 4
Fumble Recovery: 2.
An important note regarding Dupree: The Steelers should regain their offensive fireworks with the return of Big Ben, something which will allow Dupree more chances to get after the opposing QB. Dupree makes for a good Flex option with the potential for big weeks when the Steelers are leading.
Let’s not overcomplicate things: both Bush and Watt are a BUY BUY BUY at their prices. If you’re looking for a surefire stud that is sure to be among the league leaders in overall IDP points you’ll have to pay up for Watt, while Bush remains a value pick and should make for a solid LB2 with LB1 upside as soon as this season. Dupree is a solid bench stash with startable upside in bye weeks/injury replacement.
Minkah Fitzpatrick is a ball-hawking Free Safety with 9 PD’s while adding 5 INT’s as well. The addition of Fitzpatrick to the Steelers elevated the defensive unit as a whole from above-average to elite, as his skills were perfectly complemented by the team’s already stout front seven. Fitzpatrick’s lack of tackles may keep him from the upper-echelon of IDP Defensive Backs, but he’s a solid DB2 that will occasionally make enough big plays to win games for you.
Terrell Edmunds is a name you have to remember when filling out the DB spots in your lineup. Young safeties with 100+ tackle ceilings don’t often come cheap, but Edmunds checks both boxes, making him a great value pick in most leagues. Get him while you can. He won’t last long before his ADP starts rising and, with an excellent over the top safety playing behind him, Edmunds is sure to play aggressively. Look for Edmunds to make some noise as a low-end DB2 with high-end DB2 upside.
Joe Haden is definitely a CB you can own, as he can consistently put up decent numbers for the position. Obviously, you want to have Strong Safety and Free Safety starting for you in your DB, but Haden is a solid desperation play if you’re in a pinch. That being said, you should put yourself in a position where you won’t need his services this season.
The Steel Curtain could be returning to their glory days if they put it all together. Each level of the defense can hold their own week-to-week, so as long as the offense can keep them in games, DC Keith Butler can afford to send the blitz early and often, creating havoc for opposing offenses (and points for your IDP spots).