Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for 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 move forward.
Player: WR Diontae Johnson
Stock Value: Up
Well, let’s keep it going, shall we? Three days, three wide receivers covered, with three very similar or identical first names. Two days ago, we talked about Donte Moncrief experiencing a temporary dip in his stock as he remains out with a finger injury. Yesterday, we looked at Diontae Spencer, who has brought his spring big-play ability with him to Latrobe and has earned some higher quality playing time.
Today, we focus on the other Diontae, who has been making more and more plays as the show has gone on. He has had some issues with putting the ball on the ground, including while fielding the ball in the return game, which is a problem, but he has at times looked like a real weapon when he gets the ball in his hands.
That translated into his being rewarded with a sizeable portion of first-team reps in practice yesterday with Moncrief sitting out due to his injury, working primarily with JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington. All three players were drafted within the past three drafts between the 60th- and the 66th-overall pick, and is probably the trio that they’d love to ultimately see emerge as their biggest weapons.
One thing that has been readily apparent is that his conditioning level is much improved since the spring, where he dealt with some soft tissue issues that left him as a limited participant through much of that time. he as seemingly reported in great shape, which will obviously aid him in his quest to receive early and significant playing time.
Still, while he’s obviously no threat to miss the roster, he is in a crowded group, with the three players already named above in addition to others like Eli Rogers, Ryan Switzer, and further emerging possibilities like Spencer from the CFL.
It’s worth noting that Switzer got a little dinged in practice yesterday as well. If he misses time today, that would only further increase the chances of Johnson receiving higher-quality reps, and with it the opportunity to accelerate his growth and development, and readiness to contribute in a championship-caliber offense.