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: WR Anthony Johnson
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: While reports have conflicted somewhat, my general reading is that the first-year wide receiver generally helped himself with his performance in OTAs and minicamp.
I have seen Anthony Johnson’s name in both stock-up and stock-down contexts as it pertains to performance over the past month. But I think it’s more a matter of perception. Even when he was listed with an arrow pointing down, he was described as the guy who is the best of the rest.
But the problem is that he is still a part of ‘the rest’, the players at the position who will probably not make the roster. After all, the Steelers only carried five wide receivers on the 53-man roster all season last year, and they have brought all five of those players back this year.
Johnson has been around, though. He was on the practice squad last year, and even spent a bit of time in the organization prior to that. The Buffalo Bulls (as in the MAC team) product has the physical tools you want at 6’2” and 220 pounds, yet he went undrafted, and hasn’t yet cracked a roster in the NFL.
Behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud, who is also their return man, it will be hard for any wide receiver to make much headway, but the fact that they didn’t draft at the position or bring in any veteran free agents helps guys like Johnson and Cody White, both of whom were on the practice squad last year.
Could he push to make it onto the 53-man roster? It would require that another position elsewhere is short-changed in comparison to last season, and I’m not sure I’m seeing any obvious candidates. But if he plays well enough, and makes an impact in the preseason, he could at least force them to have the discussion, which is all you can ask for in his position.