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: The third-year wide receiver had an excellent game for the Steelers last night, albeit in a losing effort, including some of the best catches of his career.
10 games into the 2021 season—and nine games played for him—Diontae Johnson is looking like the Steelers’ number one receiver for the future. There might be a blemish here and there—his fumble after a long reception last week—but there isn’t a more reliable playmaker, particularly through the air, on the roster.
He had his second 100-yard game of the season last night against the Los Angeles Chargers, catching seven passes for 101 yards, and he capped it off with a fantastic touchdown grab from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, with whom he wasn’t able to work during the week due to the latter’s COVID-19 diagnosis keeping him away from the team.
Outside of the season opener, Johnson has recorded more than 50 yards through the air in every game, and over 70 yards in seven of the nine games he’s played in. This was his fifth game of the year with seven or more receptions, and it marked his fourth touchdown, as well.
With seven games left to play, Johnson is on pace to record 105 receptions in 2021 for 1269 yards with seven touchdowns. You would like to see him boost that last number, however. He scored three times in his first four games, but this was his first touchdown since week five in Denver.
The problem is, the Steelers don’t have enough players who are similarly consistent in their reliability, though rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth is trying to earn that role. Both of them happened to give up big fumbles in overtime last week, but they both got into the end zone in Los Angeles.