The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Diontae Johnson should be returning punts with Ray-Ray McCloud on the Reserve/COVID-19 List.
Explanation: What is a team to do when they have a competent return man sidelined for whatever reason? To whom can they turn? Well, the Steelers just so happen to have a (second-team All-Pro punt returner already on their roster, who dresses every week, in Diontae Johnson. But as their top wide receiver, who has gotten hurt trying to return punts in the past, should they expose him to that role for a likely one-game cameo?
Uh, yeah. He’s a weapon. He’s the deadliest player that they have in the open field, and this is an offense that can use any edge special teams can provide. They have won or nearly won a few games this year because of impact special teams plays, such as in Buffalo, and this past weekend. Then there was the questionable offsides call in Green Bay.
It sure would be nice to have a punt return run back, though, and Johnson has actually done that. Plus, he’s the only one on the roster who has had experience returning kicks in the Steelers’ system under Danny Smith. The odds of him actually getting injured are incredibly low.
They’re not nil, however, the wide receiving corps is already without JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Chase Claypool is coming back from a turf toe injury. James Washington shockingly isn’t looking like he’s going to become a starter anytime soon midway through his fourth season, either, I reckon, and, well, McCloud was the other guy.
The Steelers are one play away from Cody White being a starter. Do you want that play to be because of a punt return attempt? They have other guys who can do it. All you need is somebody to fair catch the ball. Just elevate Steven Sims from the practice squad if need be.