There are different courses one can take when looking back to the past. You can view what happened and try to replicate it as best as possible given what was learned in the aftermath, or you can start over with the new information. The latter is often the better track, at least when it comes to important things, like NFL re-draft exercises.
We have seen a few 2019 re-draft exercises already this year, including one from Pro Football Focus. Invariably, they left the Pittsburgh Steelers at the number 10 spot, even though they were only up to 10 because they traded up to 20 for the very specific reason of drafting Devin Bush.
Well, this time the outlet put up another 2019 re-draft exercise and did the right thing by not shoehorning the Steelers back up to 20. By any realistic measure, looking back, they certainly wouldn’t trade up for Bush, and likely wouldn’t have trade up for anybody. But there is an interesting name here.
In Trevor Sikkema’s draft exercise published a week ago, he has the Steelers drafting the player that they already drafted—in the third round. Diontae Johnson, the 66th overall pick in the draft, now going 20th overall. He writes:
The Steelers traded from No. 20 to No. 10 on draft day to move up for linebacker Devin Bush, who is still available here at No. 20 in the reset of the order. Bush hasn’t exactly lived up to a first-round billing, both in play and availability. The player Pittsburgh selected later in this draft, Diontae Johnson, actually feels perfect for them here at No. 20 given the players who are left. Johnson has quietly, at least it seems, recorded over 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns as a pass-catcher over the past two seasons with sub-par quarterback play.
There has been a lot of debate about Johnson this offseason as he faces a contract year, entering the final season of his rookie deal. He has been a good player, even more than that, during his first three years, but many hold reservations about what his ceiling—and his floor—is and whether or not it merits significant financial investment.
In 16 games last season, Johnson caught 107 passes for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns, all of those career-high numbers while working with Ben Roethlisberger clearly on his last legs. While he certainly has some qualities that need to be worked on, he has already shown the work he has put in and where he has improved, in such areas as ball security.
Sitting here as the calendar sets to turn over into July, it feels as though the Steelers are likely to allow Johnson to play out the final year of his contract. Should he have a great season in 2022, they may look to retain him in March, starting with a franchise tender and working from there on an extension.