Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: WR Diontae Johnson
Stock Value: Up
I think this one is an easy choice. After he was limited to working in only individual drills during rookie minicamp a couple of weeks ago, third-round wide receiver Diontae Johnson appears to have been a full-go, unlimited participant during his first OTA session yesterday.
This isn’t entirely insignificant. Just recall last season when then-rookie fifth-round pick Marcus Allen dealt with an injury during rookie minicamp. That blessed into OTAs and then mandatory minicamp as well, and he essentially missed all of the spring, which set back his development and his opportunities.
Now, in contract to Allen, we know Johnson’s issue was not as serious because he was a limited participant during the rookie minicamp, so more like than not it was simply the coaches using an abundance of caution, also knowing that he would have time off to get completely right—if there was anything wrong—in time for OTAs.
Merely being on the fact and staying on the field, and working with the team in all capacities, is exactly the update that we all were hoping for regarding Johnson, who has the potential to carve out a significant role, even a starting one, at some point over the course of his rookie season.
Right now he is just spending his time learning the offense and picking the brains of his teammates, particularly Pro Bowler JuJu Smith-Schuster—even though, as he noted, he is actually older—and Donte Moncrief, a five-year veteran who was brought in through free agency back in March.
As we relayed yesterday, the Steelers started Johnson off focusing on working on the outside receiver positions, which is where he spent most of his time in college, though he played in the slot there as well. While the Steelers are going to ask him to know every role, it’s wise to start him out with where he is most comfortable, especially if they see that opportunity for upward growth in year one, not being earmarked exclusively for slot work in 2019.