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
This is a health-related stock update on rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson, who took a nasty and unnecessary shot to the head during his last game on Thursday, a 21-7 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
While attempting to make a catch on a deep ball in the second half, Johnson was speared in the head by Browns safety Damarious Randall, who lowered his helmet into the collision on a play in which the ball had already landed on the ground. The rookie suffered a laceration to his ear from the hit that caused it to bleed.
More significantly, obviously, is the fact that he suffered what may prove to be a concussion of fairly serious degree. With JuJu Smith-Schuster also having suffered a concussion in the same game, the Steelers yesterday signed a sixth wide receiver to the 53-man roster in Deon Cain, a second-year former sixth-round pick who spent his first year on the Reserve/Injured list with the Colts and who was currently on their practice squad.
The fact that they made a move to bring in somebody to sign to their 53-man roster, rather than to add a player to the practice squad, can be interpreted as an indication of an understanding that there is a good chance Johnson and/or Smith-Schuster will miss some time. Of the two, it seems more likely that Johnson will have a harder time getting back on the field, but visual of the concussive hit isn’t always an accurate barometer in measuring the severity of the concussion. But Smith-Schuster was already holding public events yesterday, so…
Johnson had largely emerged as the team’s number two weapon at wide receiver as a rookie. He has 32 receptions for 380 yards and three touchdowns. His three touchdowns are tied for the team lead along with Smith-Schuster and Vance McDonald.
The Steelers have previously lost Ryan Switzer to a back injury, placed on the Reserve/Injured List, and Donte Moncrief, whose struggles made it an easy decision to release him in order to preserve a projected third-round compensatory draft pick in a move that was necessitated by the Philadelphia Eagles’ release of Pittsburgh free agent L.J. Fort.