Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, 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 offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
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: ILB Buddy Johnson
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The retirement of Vince Williams leaves rookie fourth-round pick Buddy Johnson with a prime opportunity to seize a valuable reserve role on the defense.
Drafted in the fourth round out of Texas A&M, Buddy Johnson has an opportunity to start his career not dissimilar to that of Vince Williams, who is just retiring. With that sudden departure, he is now put in a position in which he can being his career as a top backup.
While Johnson has a bit more pedigree, and athletic ability, than Williams did coming out of college, he can profile as a long-term Buck starter in the event that he actually pans out. He is a heavy hitter who can take on blockers, though not to the same degree as his predecessor (there aren’t many in the league who still can).
His primary competition, as of this writing, for that top backup role will be Ulysees Gilbert III, who has spent a good portion of his career on the Reserve/Injured List. Despite entering the 2020 season with great promise, he was a healthy scratch prior to Devin Bush’s injury, before being injured himself.
To date, Gilbert has logged just 33 snaps on defense. He played 150 special teams snaps in seven games as a rookie in 2019, but just 46 in the four games for which he was active last season. The bottom line is that this is a competition that is winnable.
The only other options are Marcus Allen, Miles Killebrew, Jarvis Miller, and Tegray Scales. Of the four, Allen would perhaps be the most likely. Yet he is in just his second offseason playing the position after converting from safety.
Even as a backup, though, there is no guarantee that he sees the field. Assuming health, Bush is a player who is capable of playing 100 percent of the snaps. Robert Spillane will not willingly come off the field, either, except in the dime defense.