So this brings you, the Steelers fan and Fantasy Football player to a conundrum. Do you hold your Steelers pride above everything else and draft only Steelers, regardless of how good or bad their fantasy projections are? Inevitably, this will probably not work out the best for you, particularly on bye weeks, and you will become the laughing stock of your group of friends (particularly if you have friends from out of town who are in your league).
So what do you do? Well, we've come up with a few potential alternatives/suggestions that won't compromise your love of the black and gold, while still enabling you to beat the snot out of your buddies and hold the six real Super Bowl trophies, along with your fantasy football title, over their heads.
Option 1: Draft only NFC East, South, and West Players
For many Steelers fans, this is an ideal scenario because then you are never rooting for a team, or players, that could possibly impact the Steelers playoff chances. Drafting anyone from a division team is automatically taboo because them winning hurts the Steelers chances of winning the division. Drafting anyone from another AFC team in this case would also be a no-no because any other AFC team winning hurts the Steelers seeding in the playoffs. The Steelers play the NFC North, so those players are out too. To be honest, you can still assemble a decent team this way, but there is a lot more risk because the player pool is smaller.
QB - Eli Manning, Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo, Kurt Warner, Drew Brees
RB - Brandon Jacobs, Brian Westbrook, Marion Barber, Deangelo Williams, Frank Gore
WR - Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston, Santana Moss
Risk Factor: High
Success Factor: Low-to-Medium
Option 2: Draft the best players available
In this option, you forget about rivalries and draft the best player available. Lucky for you, Cleveland sucks this year. Cincy doesn't have any real fantasy threats outside of Carson Palmer. This leaves you with Baltimore. They have no WRs and running back by committee, but a very well-scoring defense, for fantasy purposes. In this scenario, the only division rival that is really worthy of drafting is the Baltimore defense, unless Ochostinko slips way down the draft boards and you pick him up in a late round. This may catch you some flak from other Steelers fans, but it also carries the moral hazard of potentially having split loyalties on gameday.
Risk Factor: Low
Success Factor: High
Option 3: Draft players from teams the Steelers do not play
This is a fairly decent way to assemble a fantasy team. Additionally, since the Steelers do not play the likes of New England, Indianapolis, or Arizona, this frees you up to take runs at some high-scoring fantasy players. This situation is also preferable because then you never have to sit down to watch a Steelers game and say "Gee, I hope Carson Palmer throws for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns today, but the Steelers win 34-21." No. Rooting for people playing against the Steelers is a cardinal sin. However, if you wind up drafting Tom Brady, you can feel okay because even though we hate New England, they don't appear on our schedule so you never have to compromise your loyalties during a game. If your league is a 16-week league instead of 17, you can draft Miami Dolphins since the Steelers will not play them during your fantasy season.
Risk Factor: Low-to-medium
Success Factor: Medium-to-high
Option 4: Draft anyone, but don't play them against the Steelers
The Steelers have the #1 defense in the league. I don't care how good Adrian Peterson is, playing him against the Steelers is probably a bad idea. That being said, if you have the #1 pick in your draft and do take AP, you can play him 15 of the 17 weeks of the season (bye week, and against the Steelers). That's not only guarantees you maximum production out of your players, but also allows you to not split loyalties between the Steelers and their opponents. This option combines the best out of Option 2 (draft anyone) and Option 3 (draft people not playing the Steelers), and opens up players like Peterson, Tomlinson, Aaron Rodgers, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Dwayne Bowe, and Ronnie Brown.
Risk Factor: Low
Success Factor: High
Playing Fantasy Football is hard enough, but it is even more difficult for Steelers fans who don't want to get stuck having to root against their own team. That being said, since the Steelers do boast the best defense in the league, it doesn't make a lot of sense to play people in weeks where they face the Steelers. One of the keys to Fantasy success is playing matchups (have someone going against the league's worst run defense? Get them off your bench!). Last season, I had Chris Johnson (RB-Ten) and LenDale White on my team. Usually, you would think it stupid to play two running backs from the same team in the same week. However, I stuck both in for the Tennessee-Kansas City game last year and the Titans put up over 300 yards of offense, with both guys producing multiple scores. So, no matter what the so-called "experts" say are the best picks and who will be the most productive, in the end, it's your decision on how you want to shape your team and who you put on it.