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: Up
It wouldn’t be going too far to say that Sunday night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals was the best game of Diontae Johnson’s young career. After all, he did score two touchdowns. In fact, he had positive contributions as a receiver, runner, and returner. I’m sure he threw a block in there somewhere as well. About the only thing he didn’t do was throw a pass.
Though he ‘only’ gained 60 yards on six receptions via eight total targets, that included a very nifty two-yard touchdown pass from Devlin Hodges that was well-placed and well-caught by the rookie duo. He also had an incredible 18-yard reverse-field catch-and-run that may have gone for a loss had he not been able to make that play happen. Fittingly, it set up his touchdown reception.
Of course, he also had the big 85-yard touchdown return. In consecutive weeks, the Steelers have now had a good kick return and a good punt return. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around these parts. And both of them came from rookies.
The big performance came on the heels of a series of underwhelming showings from the third-round pick out of Toledo, who had gotten off to a bit of a hot start on the season, getting into the end zone three times in a five-game span, but then he went five games without scoring, and only had one game of 30 or more yards or four or more receptions.
With the strong showing, he appears to be back on the right track, and is setting the Steelers up to have a formidable wide receiver corps, as the team had hoped when they used three picks between 60 and 66 over the span of the past three drafts to stockpile wide receiver talent.
James Washington had been stepping up. He leads the team in receiving yards. Johnson now leads in receptions and receiving touchdowns. JuJu Smith-Schuster could be on his way back to deliver what we have seen him do in the past. Perhaps at full strength the offense won’t have to be carried so much by their defensive counterparts.