The Steelers will welcome back a key member of their offense, but they’re also set to lose their starting tight end for at least the next month. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Steelers have activated wide receiver Diontae Johnson from injured reserve. To make room on the roster, the Steelers have placed tight end Pat Freiermuth on injured reserve.
Johnson suffered a hamstring injury during the season opener that ultimately required a stint on injured reserve. The receiver was designated to return to practice earlier this week, opening his 21-day window to be activated.
The former third-round pick has been a productive member of the Steelers offense through his first four seasons in the NFL. Johnson earned his first career Pro Bowl nod in 2021 after finishing with 107 catches for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns. With Kenny Pickett taking over for Ben Roethlisberger in 2022, Johnson’s numbers took a bit of a step back, with the receiver finishing the campaign with 86 catches for 882 yards and no touchdowns.
George Pickens has picked up the slack through the first chunk of the season, hauling in 22 catches for 393 yards. Allen Robinson and Calvin Austin have combined for only 280 yards, so Johnson will surely provide a spark to Pittsburgh’s offense.
“I am very excited. It’s been a long process, fighting to get back. I am looking forward to showing them I am ready for Sunday,” Johnson said this week (via the team’s website).
Freiermuth suffered a hamstring injury in Week 4 that forced him to miss the following week’s game, but the tight end was expected to be good to go following the Week 6 bye. Freiermuth aggravated the hamstring injury during practice this week, and now he’ll miss at least the next four games while recovering from the injury.
The former second-round pick had a standout sophomore season in 2022, finishing with 63 catches for 732 yards. He’s struggled to put up similar production in 2023, even with Johnson out of the lineup. In four games, Freiermuth has hauled in only eight passes for 53 yards.
Rookie third-round pick Darnell Washington should jump to the top of the depth chart with Freiermuth out. The Steelers are also rostering Connor Heyward and Rodney Williams at the position, with Noah Gindorff currently sitting on the practice squad.