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: Down
Down, because he probably just went from dressing to being inactive with Johnny Holton being promoted from the practice squad yesterday. Before the move, the Steelers had only five wide receivers on the 53-man roster, and they almost always dress at least five. Holton has more to contribute in more areas right now than does the rookie who was acquired via the resources gained in the Antonio Brown trade.
Somewhat amusingly, the Steelers now have two former Raiders wide receivers on their 53-man roster, while the Raiders traded for two in the past two offseasons, with nothing to show for it. To this point, only Martavis Bryant has suited up for both teams. Brown was released before could, and the Raiders traded Ryan Switzer to the Steelers after having previously acquired him via trade in the same offseason.
That was a pretty big digression, but it’s also somewhat on-point. Those two former Raiders wide receivers will dress, because of what they offer on special teams, and he will not, because of what he can’t yet offer there, combined with his missed practice and preseason time.
Granted, until 90 minutes before kickoff, it’s merely speculation that Johnson is not going to dress, but think about it. Switzer is their return man, and there would have been no reason to promote Holton yesterday if they weren’t going to dress him. And obviously the other three wide receivers on the roster are not going to be inactive.
And so begins the clock to see how long it takes for Johnson to get on the field for the first time during his rookie season, and who we’ll ultimately take a helmet from. It’s not impossible that they dress six wide receivers, especially if injuries allow for it, but it would mean leaving another area of the roster short.
Alternatively, they could surprise and go into the game dressing only two tight ends, leaving Zach Gentry—the other player drafted with the Brown trade resources—inactive instead. They have done it a couple of times before with Xavier Grimble sitting, but it’s certainly not the norm.