First of all, full disclosure, I am and always shall be a die-hard Steelers fan. I hate the Ravens, Browns, and Bengals. I do respect each of their teams.
Hines Ward has been producing for fantasy leagues for the last nine years or so. Unfortunately, his production this year will not meet thresholds that Ward has been meeting since 2001. Ward has been compared to Tony Gonzalez as a player that isn’t very fast anymore, but is getting by with football knowledge and quick feet. Over the last five games, Ward has 21 receptions, 307 yards, and zero TDs on 33 targets. These are not what a fantasy owner was expecting with Big Ben throwing him the ball. Mike Wallace has overtaken Ward as the Steelers #1 receiving option.
This year the Steelers acquired two veteran WRs, Arnaz Battle and Antwaan Randle El, to help get the passing game get stronger. The Steelers organization also invested in two rookie WRs, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Both of these young receivers were brought along slowly and each initially became active in the returner’s role.
Emmanuel Sanders, a third round pick, has been quite productive over the last five games. Sanders has 16 receptions on 30 targets with 208 yards receiving. He has moved up the depth chart to become the #3 WR and has his eyes on a #2 role. Antonio Brown, a sixth round pick, has shown promise having 11 receptions on 14 targets with 109 yards receiving and is currently in the 4th receiver role after leap frogging Battle and Randle El.
Dynasty owners should already have Sanders rostered, but in deeper leagues get Antonio Brown as well. Something tells me Hines Ward may become the new #4 WR next year or join someone in the broadcast booth real soon.