The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the 2019 season much as they did the 2018 season, by allowing their playoff fate slip out of their grasp. Slow starts and slow finishes permeated both campaigns, with strong runs in between. But while the results were the same missing the playoffs, the means were quite different.
Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we. But that they still managed to go 8-8 without Ben Roethlisberger, and with the general quality of play that they faced along the way, I suppose things could have been worse.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2018 season.
Player: Fred Johnson
Experience: 1 Year
Fred Johnson, coming out of Florida, was one of the Steelers’ priority college free agent signings, and he proved to be worthy of that priority. He would go on to play well enough to force the team to carry him as their ninth offensive lineman.
The nature of the ninth offensive lineman, however, is such that it is constantly vulnerable, and always at or near the top of the list of players who could be waived in order to make a roster adjustment, usually due to injury. We’ve seen this happen a number of times, including with Wesley Johnson several years ago.
As you can gather—or remember—Johnson was yet another case, as he would be waived in the middle of October after both Mason Rudolph and James Conner were injured, calling up quarterback Paxton Lynch and running back Trey Edmunds from the practice squad.
The Cincinnati Bengals would go on to claim him off of waivers, and unlike in Pittsburgh, he wouldn’t be left idle. He ended up active for six games, making one start, and accumulating a total of 146 snaps on offense by season’s end. Almost all of those snaps came in the final two games.
While the Steelers largely kept Johnson at guard, the Bengals are open to him playing both guard and tackle, and right now, he has to be viewed as in the discussion to compete for a starting job along their line in 2020. They do have some possibilities for openings.
With the Steelers losing not only Johnson but also Patrick Morris off waivers last season, and then seeing Ramon Foster retire and B.J. Finney leave in free agency, they took a lot of hits that they will have to work to recover from. The signing of Stefen Wisniewski in free agent was a nice band aid, but there is more work to be done to replenish the talent in the pipeline, especially along the interior and at center specifically.