As we’ve already pointed out several times this offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a nice recent history of tinkering with their 53-man roster between the time it’s first set until the start of their Week 1 game. This year might just follow suit.
While we don’t know the full context of his Saturday evening tweet, wide receiver Johnny Holton, who was one of the 37 players the Steelers cut earlier in the day, sure gave the appearance that he might not be away from the team for too long. If that’s the case, Holton will either be signed back to the practice squad on Sunday or be signed back to the 53-man roster on Monday.
Damn I love Pittsburgh 🙌🏾
— Johnny Holton (@Johnno_uc3) August 31, 2019
If Holton is indeed slated to return to the Steelers 53-man roster on Monday, it would likely be him taking the spot of a player being moved to the team’s Reserve/Injured list for a possible designated-to-return tag later in the season. As of right now, the two likeliest candidates to get moved to Reserve/Injured on Monday are rookie cornerback Justin Layne and outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi.
Layne was injured late in the first half of the Steelers Thursday night preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers and it’s still unclear as to the seriousness of his injury, or what his injury even is. The Steelers kept 10 total defensive backs on their initial 53-man roster so even if Layne isn’t going to be sidelined long, he still would be a likely candidate to start the regular season on the team’s gameday inactive list if not moved to Reserve/Injured.
As for Adeniyi, he had surgery on August 16 to reportedly repair a torn meniscus. If indeed that was the nature of his surgery and if at most a five-week recovery time was expected, he would figure to be out of action through the first three weeks of the season at most. Placing Adeniyi on Injured/Reserve would require him to miss at least the first eight weeks of the season before he could return to the 53-man roster. Would the Steelers really want to tie him up on Injured/Reserve that long and use one of two possible designated-to-return tags on him if he could possibly be back much sooner?
The Steelers did keep 10 total linebackers on their initial 53-man roster this year so there is a chance that Adeniyi could be headed to Injured/Reserve if they think his recover time will be much longer than three more weeks.
If Holton winds up being brought back to the 53-man roster on Monday, his re-addition would make a lot of sense. For starters, the Steelers could use a sixth wide receiver on the roster at the start of the season and especially if rookie Diontae Johnson isn’t quite up-to-speed with the entire offense just yet. Holton also would provide the Steelers another solid special teams player, something that Johnson is not.
Additionally, both Holton and Layne, along with fellow Steelers cornerback Artie Burns, worked a ton as gunners on the punt coverage team during the preseason. It would make sense that Holton would handle a gunner role and more if re-signed. Layne, as previously mentioned, would be sent to Reserve/Injured or just be one of the team’s seven inactive players to start the regular season.
Holton would also likely function as the fifth, or sixth, wide receiver on gamedays depending on how many dress every week. He can play all three wide receiver positions in a pinch with the Z spot probably being his most suitable one.
Maybe Holton will be back on Sunday on the practice squad instead. If that’s the plan, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.
We should find out if Holton’s in the Steelers immediate future by Monday at 4 p.m. EST. Obviously I could also be reading way too much into Holton’s Saturday afternoon tweet. He might just really, really love the city of Pittsburgh and that could be the long and short context of his very short tweet.