Now that the 2019 season is over, with a team other than ours having been crowned champion and there being much work to do to return to that status, 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 season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
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 Johnny Holton
Stock Value: Even
The Steelers brought in veteran wide receiver Johnny Holton for one specific purpose: be a slightly younger and slightly worse Darrius Heyward-Bey. That’s exactly what he did in his first season with the team, no more and no less, so it’s hard to say his stock is anything but even. He did what he was expected to do.
That is in spite of the fact that, for whatever odd reason, he didn’t make the initial 53-man roster. He was signed to the practice squad, but then promoted prior to the first game. He played sparsely on offense, primarily as a deep threat decoy and as the lone receiver on most 13 and 22 personnel packages, the way Heyward-Bey was, but for the most part, he was limited to special teams duties.
In all, he played close to 300 total snaps on special teams, often serving as a four-way player, participating on both kick and punt coverage units as well as kick and punt returns, regularly seeing 70 percent or more of the total special teams snaps for any given game. He saw more than 20 snaps on special teams in four different games.
His primary role, or at least the one in which he was most prominent, was as a gunner on the punt coverage team. He finished the regular season with eight total tackles, but there is no statistic for a lot of the things that he does, such as inducing fair catches, through I’ve argued for years that there should be.
The question is whether or not the Steelers see his role as valuable enough to keep once again as a number six wide receiver. Already guaranteed spots in 2020 are JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson. Ryan Switzer, who was recently seen with Ben Roethlisberger, has a shot of returning as well, and Deon Cain showed promise over the final six weeks after he was signed from the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad. They are sure to add at least one wide receiver through free agency or the draft as well.