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 did not go out the way he wanted, showcasing the flaws in his game at the biggest stage available, recording multiple drops, a false start, and multiple miscommunications in a playoff loss for the Steelers.
Diontae Johnson hasn’t said much, if anything, about his future this offseason. He is going into the final year of his rookie contract, and that pretty inevitably means that he and his agents are going to want to talk to the Steelers about a rather sizable contract extension.
And after putting up 107 receptions for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns during the regular season, under pretty trying circumstances for the offense, he has a case to make. But so do the Steelers, when it comes to paying him top dollar, and yesterday’s game showed why.
It was just a few weeks ago that Pro Football Focus published an article including interview responses from Johnson that argued he is becoming one of the best wide receivers in the game. He certainly has aspects in his game that are among the best, but being a complete product continues to allude him.
Put simply, he remains prone to mistakes at a level high enough to be a risk in terms of investment. While he avoided drops for most of the season, he didn’t finish out the year that way, and he added two more drops in the playoffs.
He was already among the league leaders in penalties for wide receivers during the regular season, and he added another false start to his list. On multiple occasions, including at least one third-down play just working from memory, he clearly was not on the same page as Ben Roethlisberger.
There aren’t many players in the game who can simply get open as well as Johnson can. He’s also capable of making some fantastic and difficult catches. He’s equally capable of making mistakes that cost the team. How much of this is mental and how much he can work on it, after having already ostensibly done so over the past year, is difficult to say, but he’ll be due for an extension before we can see the on-field response.