With the 2017 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certain players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, have sent their stock rising, falling, or breaking even.
Player: TE David Johnson
Stock Value: Up
The offseason has been pretty kind to veteran tight end David Johnson so far. After signing a one-year, qualifying contract with his former team last summer, he signed a two-year contract to re-up with the Steelers on the first day of free agency, the first day that such a contract was eligible, due to his previous contract.
Then Pittsburgh managed to avoid the tight end position in the 2017 NFL Draft, despite the fact that it was a position named by President Art Rooney II that they would be looking at on Day Three of the draft. There were also a couple of target names floated out by a beat writers that the Steelers may have drafted had they been available when their selection came around.
The long and short of all this is that Johnson’s roster stability is still looking pretty good. The fact of the matter is that he remains the best blocker on the team, and he is also the only player who can fill on at fullback should it be necessary. His versatility is an asset to his further employment.
The Steelers did bring in Pittsburgh tight end Paul Orndoff, whom some are higher on than others, but with the team more recently prone to carrying four tight ends rather than three, he figures to be a greater challenge to Xavier Grimble than to Johnson.
The former 2009 seventh-round draft pick has already carved out a nice little career for himself, and was recently praised by former Steelers lineman-turned-analyst Craig Wolfley in an assessment that I, in full disclosure, very much agree with [unfortunately, it’s behind a pay wall].
Johnson’s role in the offense evolved over the course of the season as strengths and weaknesses were clarified, and he began to take some snaps away from ‘starter’ Jesse James. By the end of the year, he had his own package, often accompanied not by another true tight end, but by either a fullback or extra lineman.
I suspect that he will continue to play an important role in the team’s blocking assignments this year, and into the future, until somebody else proves to be more capable. Johnson has been an underappreciated player so far in both of his stints with the team, as far as I’m concerned.