Now that the regular season 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 have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season 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 reasoning. 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. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: WR Diontae Johnson
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: The third-year wide receiver was ruled out for tomorrow’s game due to a knee injury that he suffered—or aggravated—on the final play of the Steelers’ last game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to do without one of their top wide receivers tomorrow against the Cincinnati Bengals, as Diontae Johnson was ruled out for the game. The third-year veteran suffered a knee injury on the final play of the team’s last game. He also missed some time in the season opener due to a knee injury.
Johnson caught five passes for 36 yards and a touchdown in the first game of the season for the Steelers. This past week, he caught nine passes for 105 yards, the first 100-yard game for anybody on the roster so far this year.
He leads the team with 22 targets, 14 receptions, and 141 yards. He is one of two players who have scored through the air on offense, rookie running back Najee Harris also accounting for a receiving touchdown. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has a rushing touchdown.
Johnson did not practice at all this past week, though it was said that he avoided major injury. Still, we do not know what next week holds, and if we should anticipate this being just a one-week thing, or if he could potentially miss more than one game.
The Steelers still have Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool at wide receiver, and with Johnson out, James Washington is going to play a much bigger role. The fourth-year veteran has not played much at all through the first two games of the season, so he will be pleased to have that opportunity.
The greatest concern with Johnson’s absence is the fact that he is, by far, the best on the roster in terms of gaining separation, which is why he receives the most targets from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger virtually every game. We could see Roethlisberger holding onto the ball longer without him, potentially leading to him taking more hits.