Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: WR Diontae Johnson
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: After dropping somewhere around half a dozen passes in the two games leading up to last night’s affair, third-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson dropped two passes within the Steelers’ first two drives, and was benched for the rest of the first half.
It’s been a while since head coach Mike Tomlin has had to sit a player down on offense because they were simply not doing something really fundamental, but we saw that last night. Coming into last night’s game already leading the NFL in drops and after two really bad games in that department, wide receiver Diontae Johnson did the worst thing that he could possibly do to start out.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger immediately looked his way to open the game, setting up what looked like a promising wide receiver screen to the left with tight end Vance McDonald out in front to block, but what did he do? He dropped the ball. Then he dropped another pass on the Steelers’ second drive on third down that forced them to punt again.
After that play, he would not see another snap for the remainder of the first half. Following last week’s game, Tomlin was asked what he can do about receivers dropping balls. He said that they can catch the ball or get replaced.
Johnson would get back on the field in the second half, but still in a reduced role. He had three receptions all on one drive, and that would be it in terms of his in-game contributions for the Steelers on the night.
It is not clear whether or not his continued issues will have immediate ramifications for next week’s game, or if he will return to the starting lineup as normal until he starts dropping passes again. The reality is that the Steelers need him to be the best version of himself in order for this offense to run, because virtually everybody short of JuJu Smith-Schuster has faded.