2012 Fantasy Football: Pittsburgh Steelers Defense/Special Teams Still a Hot Commodity

By Clyde A. Speller

For this upcoming 2012 fantasy football season, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense/special teams should still be sought after in many fantasy leagues. The Steelers’ defense is getting up there in age, but the defensive scheme of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has proven to be effective over the years.

Last season, Pittsburgh’s defense ranked number one in the NFL in total yards allowed per game and in pass defense. In fantasy leagues, the Steelers’ defense/special teams averaged 12.2 points per week.

Over the offseason, Pittsburgh has lost a great number of defensive players in attempts of making more salary cap room. Linebacker James Farrior, cornerbacks William Gay and Bryant McFadden, and defensive end Aaron Smith are no longer with the team. In addition, defensive tackle Casey Hampton will more than likely start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list while recovering from reconstructive knee surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Due to these key losses, the Steelers will have to rely upon rookies Terrence Frederick, Sean Spence, and Alameda Ta’amu to contribute at cornerback, linebacker and defensive tackle respectively, especially when it comes to stopping the run this season.

Ta’amu’s production will determine how well Pittsburgh’s run defense is this year. The Steelers will face four teams that were ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in rushing last season (one of those teams are the Baltimore Ravens, whom they face twice).

Among those teams, the Denver Broncos may give Pittsburgh’s defense the toughest challenge. Not only do they have to travel to the Mile High City and try to stop an offense that averaged 164.5 rushing yards per game, they also have to defend Denver’s passing attack that will be orchestrated by four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning. To make matters more difficult, the Steelers will have to do this without Pro Bowl safety Ryan Clark, who can’t play because of a sickle cell trait that is detrimental to his health if he plays at high altitudes.

On special teams, Pro Bowl return specialist Antonio Brown may not get as much action in the return game as he did last season. In 2011, Brown had over 1,000 yards in both receiving and kick/punt returns, and now has become one of Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite targets on offense. The majority of the return duties may now fall on Emmanuel Sanders and rookie Chris Rainey.

Overall, the Steelers’ defense/special teams may be old and have some inexperienced players filling in at important positions, but they still should be one of the league’s dominant defenses this season.

The secondary, led by Troy Polamalu, will still be stingy against the pass. And with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley both on the field together, the Steelers’ sack numbers should be pretty high.

I feel that the best time to select Pittsburgh’s defense/special teams in your fantasy drafts is in the latter part of your draft, and you should still have them as your starting defense once fantasy leagues kickoff.

Follow me on Twitter @ClydeASpeller

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