With training camp and the preseason now in full swing, we are finally beginning to piece together some concrete data to attempt to draw conclusions about the Pittsburgh Steelers and who they will be during the 2022 season.
With new quarterbacks, new coaches in new roles, even a new stadium name, there is plenty of change, creating an environment of even less predictability. That includes the new general manager, which could potentially introduce new variables we will have to learn to adjust to over the years when making our own projections of what decisions the team will make.
These sorts of uncertainties are 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).
Topic Statement: Buddy Johnson will not make the 53-man roster.
Explanation: If you saw either of my 53-man roster predictions thus far (the second one running earlier today), you know that I believe Buddy Johnson’s roster spot is very much in jeopardy. With spots at a premium this year and in a crowded position group where a rookie is impressing, the former fourth-round pick has done little to distinguish himself in his second season.
I’ll just say this. There’s always a numbers game. And even with Ulysees Gilbert III out of the picture due to injury, you’re still not finding a place for Buddy Johnson on this team, at least not easily. For me personally, I can’t manage it without carrying six inside linebackers. They did it last year, but that was with Johnson basically redshirting. He has to hold his own this time.
And in my observations, at least, he hasn’t really done that—certainly not better than has rookie Mark Robinson, who has only been playing linebacker for a couple years at this point. Some scoffed at the idea of them ‘wasting’ a seventh-round pick on a running back turned linebacker, but he’ll be on this roster.
While Johnson’s defensive work during the preseason may have not offered much to get excited about, he did make more plays in training camp. Alex Kozora even noted that he surprised a bit in coverage drills, coming into the league with the perception of being a thumper.
What’s more, he’s clearly being featured as a core special-teamer. He has already logged 35 snaps on special teams through two weeks, more than anybody else (11 more than Robinson), playing kick and punt returns, kick and punt coverage, and the field goal blocking unit. The only thing he’s not doing is playing on the field goal kicking unit.
He also graded out better on defense this past game than in the first, and the tape shows it, particularly against the run. He looked more comfortable overall than he did last week, though he was still a bit tight in coverage.
If he is really going to be a fixture on special teams, then that opens up Marcus Allen’s roster spot, or potentially Miles Killebrew’s at safety. Maybe even wide receiver Miles Boykin, or a defensive lineman. There are ways to fit him.