The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Draft Class is coming into the season with more hype than any other draft class I can remember. From Najee Harris stepping in as one of the top backs in the league, Pat Freiermuth as one of the most talented tight ends Ben Roethlisberger has ever played with, Kendrick Green as a hyper aggressive starting center, and Pressley Harvin III who has All-Pro punting potential. Even Quincy Roche is known as the biggest steal of the Steelers draft and Tre Norwood was called a Swiss army knife from Mike Tomlin himself.
Really the only two draft picks that aren't getting much love this offseason are the two guys from Texas A&M. But even then, Dan Moore Jr. has been called a developmental tackle piece meaning we won't see much of him in 2021.
That leaves us with the 140th overall draft pick in Buddy Johnson. Johnson was instantly talked about as the guy with the potential to take over for Vince Williams when the time comes. As we sit here right now Devin Bush is entrenched as one of the starting inside linebackers with Robert Spillane battling it out with Williams to start opposite of him. The depth pieces below those three include: Ulysees Gilbert III, Miles Killebrew, and Marcus Allen. I envision Johnson beating all of those guys out fairly quickly, and considering Williams is slowing down and the warts of Spillane’s game, he has a shot to start before the end of the season.
LB Buddy Johnson of @AggieFootball is an excellent run defending LB— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 8, 2021
Good take-on ability vs OL/TE, can pop & get off blocks. Agile to scrape/run-and-chase on 2nd level well too. And can knock you off your feet in a phone booth!
Just don’t know what to do with him on 3rd down pic.twitter.com/l3prGGiLQK
Johnson is actually more athletic than both Spillane and Williams, running his 40 yard dash (4.58) in two tenths of a second faster than either player. Johnson’s 20 yard shuttle is also miles ahead of the other players, meaning he can change directions and accelerate faster than anything we are used to from the position. Not only does Johnson possess speed, but he was a thumper in college smacking around running backs and lineman alike. He was also a renowned leader in the locker room through actions and words, something the Steelers will need as the veterans of this core age.
Trying to find some Day-3 LB options for #Steelers. Buddy Johnson (TAMU) starting to jump off the page. Explosive pro-day with an #RAS of 9.22.— Tyler Wise (@TriggeredWise) April 8, 2021
• 4.59 - 40
• 10'8" - BJ
• 38.2" - VJ
• 4.07 - SS
Have to love maniacs that can run & hit on special teams like this. pic.twitter.com/ugZS7ToIxg
So we know Johnson is athletic, a hard-hitter, and a natural leader, but what could we see from him during his rookie campaign? Well, for starters I think he will end up as a primary special teams player who earns more and more playing time as the year goes by. If the Steelers run into any injury issues at linebacker he could be thrust into the lineup earlier than expected, but I think he will get a handful of starts as we get to the end of the year. Statistically I don't anticipate Johnson will be all that impressive; however, I think the 2021 season will set him up to start beside Devin Bush in 2022.
But what do you think? How will Buddy Johnson perform as a rookie? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.