Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, 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 Diontae Johnson
Stock Value: Up
Somehow, some way, I have not written about Diontae Johnson in this stock watch series literally since the 2019 season was still ongoing (or at least in the days after the season finale). I’m not really sure how I managed to pull off this glaring oversight, but let’s make this very clear: this young man’s stock value is up, with the potential to soar.
The 66th-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, pretty much everyone involved in the team acknowledged that Johnson ended up playing far more than was intended for him as a rookie. After all, they did sign Donte Moncrief to be a starter, and they had James Washington returning as a former second-round pick. Those should have been their top three guys.
But Moncrief hardly ever even got off the ground, and after he dropped a pass that was picked off in Week Two, he was hardly heard from again until the Steelers released him in order to preserve the third-round compensatory draft pick they were anticipating in return for the loss of Le’Veon Bell.
While he had his rookie warts, Johnson displayed the potential to be an elite weapon in the right offense with a quarterback able to take advantage of his skills. Two things at which he excelled in particular last season were using the nuances of his route-running to gain separation with the ball in the air and forcing defenders to miss tackles after the catch.
That is an extraordinary combination of talents that should be rewarded with a ton of targets. Even in a dynamic offense that demands targets for other threats like JuJu Smith-Schuster and newcomer tight end Eric Ebron, it’s hard to imagine that Johnson isn’t going to put up very solid numbers in 2020, provided that Ben Roethlisberger is healthy and performing at an adequate level.
Because, quite frankly, he’s just the type of wide receiver he loves to throw to. Really, the guy who every quarterback loves to throw to: the open guy who can create plays.