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: Up
Reasoning: After missing last week’s game with a knee injury, Diontae Johnson returned on Sunday and delivered the Steelers’ biggest splash play of the season, while being arguably the offense’s most reliable player so far.
While creating separation is Diontae Johnson’s bread and butter, he is an athlete who is capable of doing a little bit of everything, and that includes getting underneath a deep ball or two. That is exactly what he did on the Steelers’ first drive of the game, capping it off with a 45-yard touchdown, their longest score of the season by 20 yards, their first deep-pass touchdown, and their first opening-drive touchdown in damn near a year.
He finished off the evening with game highs of nine receptions on 13 targets for 92 yards and his second touchdown of the year. Only he and rookie running back Najee Harris have scored multiple times for the Steelers’ offense so far through two games.
And, importantly, he has yet to drop a pass. That was obviously a major and growing concern last year, which at one point even got him benched for a half, but he has worked hard on his hand control, and has been as reliable as anybody else that they have on the team.
On the season, the third-year wide receiver now has 23 receptions for 233 yards and two touchdowns in three games, along with two touchdowns. In just the last two games in which he has played, he has caught 18 passes for 197 yards. And he has caught 72 percent of the passes that have come his was in that span.
There’s a reason that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws the ball so frequently to Johnson. He is the guy who is open, all the time. And the more he shows that he’s going to be in the right place at the right time and make the catches, he’s only going to be targeted even more. Especially if Roethlisberger has to keep getting the ball out of his hands in 2.2 seconds.