FFL mailbag: June 30

Nik, Mahwah, N.J.: Why are you so high on Ben Roethlisberger? He only threw 17 TDs last year and broke 200 yards only six times with one 300-yard game.. Pittsburgh is a running team, and besides Hines Ward they have no other proven explosive wide receivers. They have a good defense, so they rarely get into shootouts. I know he missed four games last year but I don't think that would have boosted his numbers that much to be considered top 10 in 2006. I expect around 3,200 yards and 22 TDs, making him a very good backup. Please inform me why you have him in the top 10 and what kind of numbers you expect.

Engel: I have Roethlisberger ranked ninth among QBs, which means I consider him a viable fantasy starter. When you consider that the QB field is filled with many question marks this season, Roethlisberger has given me clear indications he can at least be a stable statistical performer, and maybe better. His final numbers from 2005 aren't a true reflection of the terrific game manager and team leader he has become, and those qualities should translate into consistent playmaking in 2006. He threw for seven TDs and rushed for two more during the playoffs, when it became apparent he could make important plays at needed times. Pittsburgh's running game will be weakened by the retirement of Jerome Bettis, and Roethlisberger will have an improving Heath Miller as a key target. Plus, a smart and heady QB like Roethlisberger can make the most of whatever receiving targets he has by spreading the ball around. Tom Brady and Drew Brees are past examples of QBs who have distributed the ball well among lesser receivers at times. The Steelers might not engage in too many shootouts, but Roethlisberger can still provide steady TD totals even if he isn't explosive. I look for at least 3,300 yards and around 24 passing TDs, plus at least three rushing scores if he can play the full year. Let's not forget Roethlisberger can also scramble for scores. I think he will be reliable and sometimes above-average. Roethlisberger made clear strides forward in his development late last season and in the playoffs. I'm not saying he's an elite passer, but he'll be steady, and that's very important when you look at many other QBs who have injury questions or are plagued by inconsistency. He'll be solid enough to be a safe starter in most leagues as long as he has no residual effects from his recent unfortunate accident.