Steelers 2-a-days: Rookie Dionate Johnson looks to carve niche; JT Jones to fit in as edge rusher
Editor’s note: From now until the first practice of training camp at Saint Vincent College, the Trib will be running through the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster, assessing each player’s outlook for the 2019 season. The breakdown will go through the roster in mostly-alphabetical order, (at least) two per day, between June 14 and July 26.
WR DIONTAE JOHNSON
Contract status: $778,357 cap hit in 2019, first season of four-year rookie contract
2019 outlook: The Steelers raised eyebrows when they took the smallish University of Toledo product early in the third round after he’d been projected by many as a late third-day pick. The inevitable comparisons – fair or not – are being made with Antonio Brown, but in the very, very early returns Johnson did not exactly light the proverbial world on fire in summer workouts. Injury slowed him early, and when he did join the team reps it was often way down the depth chart. That all could change, of course, at Saint Vincent, and Johnson’s quickness and innate playmaking might be more instantly apparent if he’s healthy and with more weeks immersed in the offense. By the midpoint of the regular season, it wouldn’t be totally shocking if Johnson was the Steelers’ No. 2 receiver – but it likewise isn’t out of the question he’s still a Sunday inactive, either. The reality is he’ll probably end up somewhere in between as a rookie, with the Steelers hoping his career gradually ascends from there.
OLB JT JONES
Experience: Spent rookie 2017 on Falcons’ practice squad, early 2019 in AAF
Contract status: $495,000 cap hit in 2019, under team control for four seasons
2019 outlook: Jones had 21 ½ sacks in 37 games over his final three seasons at Miami (Ohio), and he had four sacks in eight Alliance of American Football games this past winter. The latter caught the attention of the Steelers, who perhaps noticed that Jones had at least one quarterback hit in each of the Atlanta Legends’ games. The Steelers always like to have a developmental edge rusher on their offseason and training-camp rosters, oftentimes one mined from a non-traditional place such as the CFL. Barring injury, it would seem Jones is competing with the likes of Tuzar Skipper to be on the practice squad in 2019.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .