The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Diontae Johnson will set the team rookie record for the most receptions in a single season.
Explanation: Only one rookie in team history has ever caught 60 or more passes in a season, that being Troy Edwards in 1999 with 61. That is the team record. JuJu Smith-Schuster came close in 2017 with 58 receptions. Diontae Johnson is the only other rookie with 50 or more, currently at 55, and he would need seven receptions to break the record.
Johnson has been pretty hot lately, and heavily-targeted, relatively speaking. Over the past three games, he has been targeted 24 times and has caught 19 passes. He caught eight passes last week, the first game of his career in which he caught more than six passes (which he had done twice prior).
The Steelers will have no choice but to go all out to win today’s game, and that means there’s a good chance they’re going to be throwing the ball around quite a bit. To be blunt, Johnson is the only starting receiver who is fully healthy, and he’s also the best route runner, so that plays in his favor in terms of getting as many targets as possible. His nine targets last week was a career high, and he’s only getting better.
The fact that he has never had more than nine targets in a game, and never had more than six receptions in a game prior to last week, suggests that it’s unlikely he’s going to duplicate such a feat in consecutive weeks so quickly. He may get close, perhaps five or six receptions (he has caught at least five passes in six games), but seven is asking a lot, considering the circumstances.
The Steelers will be hoping, quite frankly, that they will be able to run the ball. And even if the Ravens rest some players in the secondary, they will still be a challenge to throw on. Marlon Humphrey will probably be out there, for one thing.