Few Pittsburgh Steelers fans were thrilled to hear wideout Diontae Johnson named called on Friday night. I scrunched up my face and wondered like everyone else, “Who is this guy who stands five-foot-10 and 183 pounds from Toledo?” I quickly looked up his bio and combine numbers and was not inspired. His 40-yard dash was clocked at 4.53 seconds. While not terrible, I was expecting more from a sub-six-foot player. Forty speed does not always matter, right? For a slot wideout quickness is just as important. In the 3-cone drill, Johnson ran a 7.09. Again, not terrible but not flashy either. The MAC is a far cry less talented than conferences such as the SEC and Big 10.
As fans, we do not know what the blueprint general manager Kevin Colbert has for the Steelers. I voiced my displeasure at grabbing a wideout last week in an article and I still stand by that. I see the team having other needs. Needs that are greater than plucking a Toledo Rockets wide receiver in the third round.
Obviously, tight end is not high on the list as four of them went in the third round. None to the Black and Gold. Colbert has another plan at the position or does he have more faith than I do in Xavier Grimble? As a betting man, I would say the latter. I hope that faith is well placed with Vance McDonald, who is all but assured to miss time in 2019 due to injury. McDonald has averaged 12 games per season in his six-year injury-plagued career.
As things stand the Steelers third safety is Jordan Dangerfield. Pittsburgh has plenty of picks left to use on a safety but will they and can the player beat out Dangerfield? Will former safety Mark Barron keep him off the field in dime situations? Will the Steelers run big nickel? Pittsburgh was in their dime package 37.2 percent. of the time last season up from 24 percent in 2017.
What is Colbert’s plan for Bud Dupree? The Steelers going to try to sign him to a long-term contract or let him play out this season and see how things go? In a deep EDGE rush class, the Steelers have yet to snare one. Fan favorite, Chase Winovich was staring Colbert in the face early in the third round. Instead of writing his name on the card, the Steelers passed and New England snapped him up 11 picks later.
How does Johnson see the field in 2019? This has been swirling around my head since the selection was made. He will need to beat out Ryan Switzer for the kickoff and punt return duties. Kickoff and punts returns are Johnson’s best attributes Johnson ranked 22nd in the nation with a 25.8 kickoff return average and sixth in the nation with an 18.5-yard average. For him to be active on game days he will need to supplant Ryan Switzer. Switzer was twelfth in the NFL in kick return average (20.2 yards) and thirteenth in punt return average (8.4 yards.). The assumption is Johnson will be given every opportunity to beat out Switzer. Switzer’s fate would be sealed and most likely lose his roster spot.
To see any meaningful playing time on offense, Johnson would need to pass up Eli Rogers. The only thing that makes Eli Rogers special is his connection with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has faith in Rogers in some of the biggest games over the past three seasons. Over the past three playoff games, the duo has hooked up for 17 receptions. Last season when AB no showed for Week 17 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Rogers ended up with seven receptions for 52 yards. Three of which resulted in a first down.
Look, I get it. The Steelers are not drafting just for 2019. I just see other positions as greater need and the wide receiver position can be addressed in 2020. I do not necessarily have an issue with Johnson as a football player, instead; I have issues with the position drafted and how productive he will be in 2019. Other positions would have a much clearer path to playing time and relegate subpar players to special team’s duty.
Johnson will be forever linked to AB as the No. 66 pick was part of the compensation from Oakland. As Steelers fans, we can only hope that Johnson’s career is as good as Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace and not similar to Willie Reid and Sammie Coates.