Steelers will be without two starting offensive players vs Ravens

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers recently had two starting offensive players land on the COVID list and will be unavailable vs Ravens. Here’s what this could mean for Week 18.

With the results of Week 17, the Pittsburgh Steelers can only get into the playoffs with a hope and a prayer. In addition to needing a win against the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday, Mike Tomlin’s team will be counting on the bottom-dwelling Jacksonville Jaguars to pull off the upset of the season against the Indianapolis Colts.

At this point, the Steelers can only control what they can control, but securing a win in Baltimore to close out the 2021 season suddenly got a bit more difficult. Recently, the team reported that WR Diontae Johnson and C Kendrick Green have headed to the Reserve/COVID list. Because this happened late in the week, they will not be eligible to return prior to the season finale.

While losing Green for J.C. Hassenauer may actually be an upgrade at this point, the same cannot be said for replacing Diontae Johnson. After a remarkable year, Johnson has emerged in the true WR1 discussion around the league. He was by far the most impressive offensive player for the Steelers in 2021, and I can only imagine how lackluster this unit would have looked without him.

Though the Steelers may still be favored over the Ravens, losing your best offensive weapon is a massive blow to a team that already struggles to consistently reach the 20-point mark each week. Johnson is not only the best receiver on the team at creating separation, but he was also the best with the ball in his hands and the only receiver with any sort of consistency this year.

The Steelers will have to turn to others in what is very likely the last game of Ben Roethlisberger’s career in Pittsburgh. So how will the loss of Diontae Johnson affect this offense?

How will the loss of Johnson impact Steelers offense?

The Steelers have been very fortunate to have Diontae Johnson for at least 15 games in each of his first three seasons in the NFL. However, losing him now could prove to be devastating — especially if his absence keeps them from the playoffs.

Though the Steelers only have a 6 percent chance of playing in the post-season, according to, we would hate to see Pittsburgh go out this way without Diontae on the field. As of Thursday afternoon, Mike Tomlin’s team is 6.0-point road underdogs vs Baltimore.

Without Johnson, it’s hard to envision how the Steelers are going to be able to muster up points — especially if they don’t have the same success on the ground this week that they did against the Browns. With their star receiver unavailable to go, the team could turn to Chase Claypool in a much larger role. However, Claypool is coming off perhaps his worst game of the 2021 season, as he earned just 17 yards on 9 targets last week. I also expect Ray-Ray McCloud, James Washington, and tight-end Pat Freiermuth to have a larger role in the passing game this week.

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Barring a miracle, Steelers fans will have to wait until next season to see Diontae Johnson take the field again. Hopefully, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers can still exit on a high note without their best receiver for one last game.