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Steelers release of Wesley Johnson not an indictment of the organization

The reaction to the release and acquisition of OL Wesley Johnson by the Jets is a bit overblown. Let's look at this from each perspective.

Joe Sargent

There are two perspectives regarding the Steelers' release of rookie Wesley Johnson and the Jets' subsequent acquisition of the fifth-round offensive lineman.

On one hand, a move had to be made before the Steelers' Week 6 game against the Cleveland Browns. With safety Shamarko Thomas not being able to play due to a hamstring injury, the Steelers needed another special teams player. Since it didn't seem wise at the time to have Johnson fill in as a gunner on the punt team, along with internal influences which we simply do not know, Johnson was deemed to be the odd man out. If Thomas wasn't injured, all indications suggest Johnson would still be on the team. This was simply an issue of numbers and someone had to go.

No, Todd Haley could not be released in order to find a special teams player.

On the other hand, it's a move that backfired. The hope was (and perhaps this was part of their motivation) Johnson could sneak through waivers and be available to be retained on the team's practice squad, perhaps only until the three weeks had passed which Ventrone is obligated to serve before he's allowed to be released.

The fact the Jets picked up Johnson is unfortunate, but let's remember two things before we continue playing the game of suggesting that every Steelers' front-office employee be fired. Johnson never suited up for a single game. He was a practice body getting paid a bit more than the other practice bodies. That doesn't mean he can't go on to have a fruitful career, but the more appropriate line of questioning isn't why the Steelers cut a fifth-round pick but, rather, why the Jets signed to their own 53-man roster a player they haven't had in practice and who hasn't put on pads yet for a Sunday game, let alone being seen on the field.

Teams tend not to sign the younger players other teams release during the season, and the conspiracy theorists will want to add value to the Jets' decision by claiming a later game between the Steelers and Jets might be the reasoning. If the rookie Johnson absorbed the entire playbook and also has the mental power and other insights to know exactly what the Steelers' offense will change before that game, then perhaps he can find ways to make more money than he would bouncing from roster to roster in the NFL. It's really not going to be any advantage and, for all we know, Johnson might be cut next week after the Jets realize, a bit too late, he's unlikely to help them on game day right now, barring a slew of injuries.

Ultimately, he's a fifth-round pick. Yes, the Steelers have burned through these guys like they grow on trees, but...they kind of do. It's not as though the Steelers' recent slump in the draft hasn't been well documented and discussed in connection with some serious teeth-gnashing and excessive consumption of alcohol. But the Jets still may be wise to kick the tires on what's essentially a free fifth-round pick someone else made for them. This doesn't, however, indicate any failure on the part of the Steelers. It's just a tactical move that had to be made but didn't turn out optimally for the Steelers.