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 may raise some eyebrows, but this is based on one very specific reason, and that is ball security. Even giving consideration to the context of his fumble that he had out of the handoff from the Wildcat, Diontae Johnson put the ball on the ground twice for the Steelers offense on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, and that’s something that they simple can’t afford.
I decided to give the ‘down’ evaluation because this wasn’t an isolated incident. He is up to five fumbles on the season now, and he’s been fortunate to have lost only two of them so far, including the handoff out of the wildcard in the last game. He also lost a fumble against the Cincinnati Bengals back in Week Four, his second of the year. He has fumbled both on offense and special teams.
No non-quarterback has more fumbles on the season than Johnson, and only one—the Tennessee Titans’ Derrick Henry—has as many as his five. And Henry his nearing 300 touches on the season. He only had two fumbles in his first three seasons combined.
The rookie out of Toledo must exhibit better ball security in his career going forward. For as much grief has JuJu Smith-Schuster has gotten for his ball security, he only has those two fumbles in his entire three-year career. It’s just that they were so high-profile, and the defense recovered both of them.
Johnson has more than twice as many fumbles in significantly less time, and substantially fewer touches. Not all fumbles are created equal, but players must be aware in all circumstances about what is necessary for protecting the football. He made a big play on a reception prior to one of his fumbles, but had the ball knocked out as he was fighting for extra yards.