Diontae Johnson has decided to ‘hold in’ during Steelers training camp, but one Pittsburgh receiver, in particular, could benefit from his absence.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are still in the early stages of training camp, but there has been no change to the status of their top receiver, Diontae Johnson. Though he has been working individually on the side and during positional drills, the 2021 Pro Bowl receiver has had zero participation in team sessions.
This is something that is not expected to end anytime soon. Like T.J. Watt last summer, Johnson is conducting a ‘hold-in’ during Steelers training camp to ensure that he avoids any major injuries prior to earning a lucrative new contract extension.
The Steelers are well aware of the situation and know that Johnson still cares about the team but is doing what he thinks is the best move for him. While they would love for their top receiving option to get plenty of practice reps with new quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett, it appears that he might not be able to start building that chemistry until it’s almost time for the 2022 season to start.
However, not all news is bad. Though the Steelers would love nothing more than for Johnson to join his team for 11-on-11 practice sessions, his missed opportunities will be someone else’s gain. With Johnson not working in team sessions, there are added looks for other Steelers receivers, but the one who stands to benefit the most is rookie George Pickens.
Steelers could get Pickens involved early
With Johnson’s hold-in, the Steelers first-team wide receivers in ’11’ personnel have been Chase Claypool, Cody White, and George Pickens. Anthony Miller has also gotten a lot of added looks in the slot with the first-team offense.
We already know that Claypool is going to play a starting role on the team in 2022, but Cody White is likely getting these opportunities out of seniority and is destined to go back to the practice squad in September. Miller could stick around as a slot receiver and backup return man for the Steelers, but his role might be limited.
Pickens, meanwhile, could really benefit from these added looks early at Steelers training camp. Had Johnson been present in team sessions, Pickens very likely would have reverted back to running with the second-team offense. Instead, he has already gotten significant reps with the first-team offense and going up against Pittsburgh’s top defenders.
The young receiver hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Pickens has shown some excellent flashes already — contorting his body to make several impressive acrobatic catches. On a few others, Pickens narrowly failed to come down with a few balls that would have had the crowd roaring.
Though he is just 21 years old, these reps at training camp are huge for Pickens. If he continues to turn heads, he could give the Steelers hope that they might have their future number one pass catcher.
We don’t know where Diontae Johnson will be playing next year at this current time, but one young receiver is certainly taking advantage during his absence. Let’s hope we continue to see great things from George Pickens, as he projects to be a huge piece of the Steelers offense in the future.