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: ILB Steven Johnson
Stock Value: Up
He may not be the most interesting or exciting name on the Steelers’ roster, but sixth-year inside linebacker has an opportunity in front of him to potentially secure a bigger, or at least more stable, role for himself with Pittsburgh in his second season here.
Signed a year ago as an unrestricted free agent to a veteran-minimum contract, which, if I recall correctly, did not even include a signing bonus, Johnson was brought in to replace Terence Garvin for his special teams capabilities.
Garvin was a restricted free agent and the Steelers determined that his worth to the team would not justify the tender of over a million and a half dollars, so they allowed him to hit unrestricted free agency by not tagging him, and he ended up signing with Washington…for about that price tag.
But the Steelers managed to fill his roster spot with a more veteran player in Johnson for about half the price. He actually didn’t make the initial 53-man roster in order to make room for Bud Dupree to be put on injured reserve with a return designation, and was inactive when re-signed for the first few weeks.
But when he did get his opportunity, he quickly developed into the team’s best special-teams player, at least by statistics, recording six tackles and a forced fumble in six games before suffering a season-ending injury.
This year, after the team showed they were interested in him by quickly re-signing him, the veteran is hoping to not only become a staple of the special-teams unit, but also to emerge as an option to step in on defense if needed.
He has played before. While with Denver in 2014, he started seven games, which is far more experience than any of the Steelers’ other options for depth at inside linebacker now that Vince Williams has replaced Lawrence Timmons as the starter.
There is a solid recent history of veteran free agents coming in on one-year deals and earning bigger roles as time goes on. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Arthur Moats are a pair of easily citable names on the current roster. Johnson is hoping to be the next. And with less competition a year after proving himself on special teams, he is in a better position to do so.