There is probably not another time more crucial to fantasy football players than Week 13. The fantasy playoffs begin Week 14, so this final week of the regular season is make-it-or-break-it for many of you.
If you are locked into the playoffs, a win can improve your seeding, but for those of you on that playoff bubble, winning is the only option.
With that sense of urgency, you need to find any edge possible. The best place to start is understanding which teams are going through late-season changes and how those changes can affect the fantasy realm. The Steelers, who fired offensive coordinator Matt Canada and replaced him with running backs coach Eddie Faulkner, are a great place to start.
Word out of the Steel City was that the offense’s new priorities were to give more touches to running back Jaylen Warren and feed more targets to wide receiver George Pickens. However, after Sunday’s game, we’ve learned that Najee Harris will not be pushed aside.
He maintained his usual snap share, saw more carries and, clearly, was Faulkner’s favorite. Warren did see three targets in the passing game, so he did actually finish with one more touch than Harris. If Warren is somehow available or if someone dropped Harris, they are immediate targets.
We did not see an uptick in targets for Pickens and his snap-share actually dropped, but do not be alarmed. He saw a few deep shots, but the Steelers had control of the clock and didn’t need to throw. Pickens’ workload should see a steady increase, and with his Week 13 matchup against Arizona, he becomes a must-start.
Jaylen Warren #30 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball. Getty Images
Where you saw the biggest increase, and potentially a great claim off your waiver wire, was by tight end Pat Freiermuth.
Faulkner may be the new offensive coordinator, but quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan is doing the play-calling, and he is all-too-familiar with the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of QB Kenny Pickett. Sullivan knows that the team’s success is dependent on Pickett’s efficiency, so a series filled with short, high-percentage passes is what they’ll use to move the chains.
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That favors a strong target-share for Diontae Johnson, but also for Freiermuth — as evidenced by his 11-target, nine-catch effort on Sunday. And better yet, the next five weeks come against teams who struggle to cover the tight end.
The changes in Pittsburgh are not yet complete, and it remains a situation to monitor closely. But after watching Sunday’s first game without Canada, we can see an obvious shift to help us in fantasy. Add Freiermuth to start and seek out other Steelers moving forward, especially if someone has dropped them. One man’s trash is another man’s Black and Gold league-winner.
Howard Bender is the head of content at FantasyAlarm.com. Follow him on X @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 6-8 p.m. Go to Fantasy-Alarm.com for all your fantasy football advice.