Steelers notes: Donte Moncrief, Diontae Johnson, Steven Nelson make team in-uniform debuts
A trio of new players who figure to fill significant roles this season made their Pittsburgh Steelers in-uniform debuts Saturday night.
Receivers Donte Moncrief and Diontae Johnson and cornerback Steven Nelson played in the preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field.
Nelson and Moncrief were two of the Steelers’ three biggest free-agent signings in the offseason, agreeing to deals worth $25.5 million and $9 million, respectively. Johnson was taken with the Steelers’ first pick of the third round, a selection acquired in the Antonio Brown trade.
Nelson and Moncrief started Saturday’s game, with Johnson playing on offense and special teams fairly early. Moncrief caught one pass for 1 yard and a fumble. Johnson, likewise, was charged with a fumble when he muffed a punt return. Johnson had an 8-yard catch in the first half.
Offensive linemen Alejandro Villanueva and Ramon Foster, outside linebackers Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt, defensive linemen Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, running back James Conner, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and safety Sean Davis were starters who made their 2019 preseason debuts after they sat out last week’s opener against Tampa Bay.
Cornerback Artie Burns also played after being injured last week.
Starters who did not play because of injury for the second consecutive game were cornerback Joe Haden (ankle), linebacker Vince Williams (hamstring), guard David DeCastro (undisclosed) and Maurkice Pouncey (undisclosed). Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was not in uniform again, though his absence was not injury-related.
Three members of the rookie class, including first-rounder Devin Bush, did not play. Bush, the inside linebacker taken No. 10 overall, missed practice earlier this week for an undisclosed injury. Fifth-round tight end Zach Gentry has an apparent rib or back injury, and sixth-round linebacker Sutton Smith has missed most of training camp practices because of injury.
Also out of Saturday’s game because of injury were linebacker Ola Adeniyi (knee surgery) and tight end Christian Scotland-Williamson (undisclosed).
Okorafor again at right tackle
Even if Matt Feiler is the presumed starter at right tackle this season, for the second consecutive preseason game Feiler was at right guard for the first half. Second-year former third-round pick Chuks Okorafor again started at right tackle.
B.J. Finney replaced Pouncey at center, Tyler Matakevich started in place of Bush or Williams at inside linebacker and Burns started in place of Haden.
Johnson was back to field all three of the Chiefs’ first-half punts. He returned all three — none for longer than 6 yards — and had a muff.
Johnny Holton was deep to return each of Kansas City’s first two kickoffs. He returned them for 21 and 15 yards, respectively.
The kickoff was delayed by about an hour because of a heavy thunderstorm blew through the area.
An announcement over the Heinz Field public-address system at about 6:30 p.m. cleared the seating bowl. It was 7:15 p.m. when the fans were permitted back into the open area of the stadium.
Player warm-ups were halted, as both teams retreated to their locker rooms. Lightning bolts and loud thunder were seen and heard around the confluence outside Heinz Field.
Working with the WRs
Like they were during practices at Saint Vincent this week, Ray Sherman and Blaine Stewart were working with the Steelers wide receivers during warmups.
Sherman is a 67-year-old longtime NFL assistant who hasn’t coached fulltime since 2015 but was a guest at Steelers camp even before receiver coach Darryl Drake’s death. Stewart, the son of former West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, is a coaching assistant with the Steelers.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .