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 Johnny Holton
Stock Value: Up
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A number of wide receivers helped their cause with their performance during Friday’s victory for the Steelers over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I believe that perhaps Tevin Jones strengthened his case the best, but veteran Johnny Holton was in the discussion as well, in addition to Diontae Spencer.
This one is about Holton, however, and we might as well start on special teams, because that is where he is most likely to play. truth be told, his first chance didn’t do himself any favors. As is common in the preseason, he made a risky decision to take a kickoff out from deep in the end zone to try to make something happen, but he only got to the 14-yard line.
But he followed that up by recording an assisted tackle on the Steelers’ next kickoff in coverage. I don’t think too many returners also play on coverage units, but Holton can be that guy. He later did return a kick out to the 24-yard line, but his biggest impact was on offense.
He did Mason Rudolph a big favor on the rookie’s second drive of the game, taking a short pass 59-yards with a great catch-and-run display that included his ability to spin out of a would-be tackle attempt already 15 or so yards down the field. The only disappointment is that he allowed himself to be forced out of bounds at the six-yard line rather than scoring.
He also recorded a 10-yard reception, but his other big play in the passing game was actually his ability to use his speed to draw a defensive pass interference penalty for 27 yards while Devlin Hodges was in the game. That penalty put the Steelers near midfield, and they would go on to score a touchdown on the drive.
Should Holton make the roster, he would, if he dresses, serve largely in a Darrius Heyward-Bey-like role. He is a bigger receiver with speed and the ability to block if necessary, and can play coverage units. His ability to return kicks is an added wrinkle from Heyward-Bey as well.