Steelers Rumors

Steelers Move WR Diontae Johnson, RB Anthony McFarland To IR

Coming into this season, Diontae Johnson had only missed two games in four years. He will double his absence count because of a Monday transaction. Johnson is now on the Steelers’ IR list.

A hamstring injury sustained in Week 1 will sideline him for at least four games. Johnson will head to IR for the first time in his career. Pittsburgh making this move before its Week 2 game will allow for its top wideout to come back by Week 6. The Steelers also moved backup running back Anthony McFarland to IR ahead of their Monday-night tilt with the Browns.

Teams are allotted eight IR activations per season. Johnson will undoubtedly be one of the Steelers’ activations. A knee injury sidelined McFarland, whose return timetable is uncertain. Given Johnson’s injury, it would be a bit of a surprise if he were not ready to return when first eligible. Mike Tomlin had recently stopped short of indicating Johnson would miss multiple games.

The former third-round pick became immediately productive for the team — one that has consistently developed second- and third-round receiver picks — and has become the rare Steelers wideout to receive an extension. Although JuJu Smith-Schuster signed a one-year deal after the expiration of his rookie pact in 2021, Johnson joined Antonio Brown and Hines Ward as the only Steelers starting wideouts given multiyear extensions during their rookie deals. Johnson signed a two-year, $36.71MM deal before last year’s training camp, joining A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Terry McLaurin and Deebo Samuel as 2019 Day 2 wideout draftees to sign extensions before the 2022 season started.

Johnson, 27, led the Steelers in receiving yards during each of the past three seasons, helping the team to the AFC North title in 2020 and posting a career-high 1,161 yards in 2021. Last season, Johnson aided Kenny Pickett‘s development but famously did not find the end zone during an 86-catch, 882-yard season. The Toledo alum will need to wait a bit before having the chance to return to the end zone this year.

Pittsburgh will need to lean on George Pickens, the acrobatic catch maven beginning his second season, and trade acquisition Allen Robinson. The 10th-year vet has struggled for the past two seasons, disappointing on a Bears franchise tag and in his lone Rams season. The Rams are paying part of Robinson’s contract. The former 1,000-yard receiver did catch five passes for 64 yards in the Steelers’ opener. Calvin Austin, a slot player who spent last season on IR, also stands to see his role grow while Johnson recovers.

To replace McFarland behind Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, the Steelers elevated running back Qadree Ollison from their practice squad.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 9/15/23

Today’s only taxi squad adjustment:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Originally a seventh-round pick last year for the Panthers, Barnes bounced over to the Dolphins’ practice squad after failing to make 53-man roster in Carolina. Later on in the year, Barnes was signed off Miami’s taxi squad by the Vikings, with whom he would make his NFL debut playing two games on special teams. It’s not an experienced depth addition for Pittsburgh, but it brings in young potential to a position with some new, established veteran starters.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 9/14/23

Today’s practice squad transactions:

Chicago Bears

  • Signed: S Macon Clark

Indianapolis Colts

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/14/23

Today’s minor transactions:

Carolina Panthers

  • Signed off Raiders practice squad: CB Sam Webb

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

  • Signed off Raiders practice squad: G McClendon Curtis
  • Signed off Buccaneers practice squad: OT Raiqwon O’Neal

With Jaycee Horn being placed on IR, the Panthers added some cornerback depth by snagging Sam Webb of the Raiders practice squad. The former UDFA got into all 17 games for Las Vegas in 2022, finishing with 36 tackles. He was cut by the Raiders at the end of the preseason before landing back on their practice squad.

Diontae Johnson Facing Multi-Week Absence

SEPTEMBER 13: Evaluations on Johnson’s injury have produced a timetable that could leave Johnson shut down for a month. The fifth-year wideout is expected to miss up to four weeks with this hamstring ailment, Dulac adds. Coming into this season, Johnson had only missed two games in total as a pro.

SEPTEMBER 12: The Steelers’ defense was dealt a major blow in their Week 1 loss with Cameron Heyward suffering a groin injury which will sideline him for several weeks. The team’s offense will likewise be shorthanded moving forward.

Wideout Diontae Johnson suffered a hamstring injury against the 49ers on Sunday and it is expected to keep him off the field for a few weeks, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Further evaluation will take place later in the week, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette adds. An absence of any significant length would be notable for the Steelers’ receiving corps.

Johnson exited Pittsburgh’s loss against San Francisco in the third quarter and did not return. He did not manage to find the endzone during his limited game action, extending a touchdown drought which spanned all of the 2022 campaign. In spite of that, the 27-year-old remains a major part of the team’s passing game, having recorded at least 86 catches and 882 yards in each of the past three seasons. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in 2021, and earned his lone Pro Bowl nod in the process.

That production earned the former third-rounder a two-year, $36.71MM extension last offseason, putting an end to speculation about his short-term future with the organization. Johnson had been pegged as a likely free agent departure, but he is now on the books through 2024. His absence will be felt in a Steelers’ WR room which will now need to lean heavily on second-year deep threat George Pickens and veteran Allen Robinson. The latter, acquired via trade this offseason, was pegged for a move to the slot but he will likely now resume operating on the perimeter, as he has for much of his career. 2022 fourth-rounder Calvin Austin should see an uptick in slot usage.

Pittsburgh is currently without Miles Boykin due to injury, and Cody White is on injured reserve. The Johnson injury thus leaves the team rather thin at the receiver spot moving forward, and plenty will be asked of Pickens, Robinson and tight end Pat Freiermuth (who himself encountered an injury on Sunday) in the passing game when the Steelers play the Browns in Week 2.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 9/12/23

Today’s practice squad transactions:

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Signed: LB Ty Shelby
  • Released: OT Austen Pleasants

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Steelers DT Cameron Heyward To Undergo Surgery

5:55pm: Heyward will indeed undergo surgery, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The procedure will take place on Wednesday, and it is expected to keep him sidelined for up to eight weeks. For the second straight season, therefore, the Steelers will exit Week 1 with a foundational member of their defense unavailable for much of the campaign.

3:00pm: The Steelers’ defense will be shorthanded while attempting to rebound from their Week 1 loss. Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward suffered a groin injury during Sunday’s game and he is facing a multi-week absence as a result, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports.

Garafolo adds that an IR stint is likely, and that surgery is an option being considered at this point. Players put on injured reserve are required to miss at least four weeks, and an absence of that length would deal a major blow to Pittsburgh’s defensive front.

Heyward exited the Steelers’ lopsided loss to the 49ers midway through the contest and a return was quickly ruled out. That signaled an injury of some significance could be revealed not long afterwards, and that has now proven to be the case. This will mark the first notable missed time for the three-time All-Pro since 2016, a testament to his durability during much of his 13-year Pittsburgh tenure.

A full-time starter since his third season with the team, Heyward has established himself as a stalwart on the Steelers’ defense. The 34-year-old has earned a Pro Bowl nod in each of the last six seasons, and he has posted double-digit sacks in three of those campaigns. His role in maintaining the team’s dominance in the sack department has been crucial while giving the Steelers an interior rush presence to compliment edge producers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.

With 163 stops and 29 tackles for loss across the 2021 and ’22 seasons, Heyward also proven to be an integral part of the team’s run defense through the latter stages of his career. His absence will be acutely felt moving forward, as was the case last season when Watt was sidelined by a pectoral tear. His return to the lineup helped spark a late-season playoff push for the Steelers, and Pittsburgh will hope a similar situation can play out in 2023 if Heyward does end up missing considerable time.

Along the defensive interior, the Steelers will move forward with Larry Ogunjobi – who re-signed on a three-year, $28.75MM deal this offseason – as a key starter. Aside from the former Brown and Bengal, though, the team is generally lacking in experience up front. Second-round rookie Keeanu Benton and 2022 third-rounder DeMarvin Leal are among the young players who are in line for an increased workload in Heyward’s absence.

2023 Offseason In Review Series

Quarterback acquisitions generated top headlines this offseason, while the slew of developments affecting the running back market moved that position’s value to a precarious point. On that note, our latest Offseason In Review series is in the books. Here are the PFR staff’s looks at how teams assembled their 2023 rosters:

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 9/4/23

Here are Monday’s practice squad transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

  • Signed: CB Quavian White

Baltimore Ravens

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

New England Patriots

  • Signed: DL Jeremiah Pharms Jr.

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

The Giants are not certain to have Wan’Dale Robinson available in Week 1. The 2022 second-round pick just came off the team’s active/PUP list, a sign the team believes he can return at some point during the season’s first four weeks. Beasley did not make the Giants’ 53-man roster but resided as a possible P-squad elevation option as Robinson protection. This moves nixes that path, as Beasley cannot play until Week 5.

Morrow has gone from potential Eagles starting linebacker to a player who did not make the defending NFC champions’ active roster. But the team still has the former Raiders and Bears starter in its plans. Morrow, who had signed a one-year deal worth the league minimum this offseason, is now positioned as a depth piece who could be elevated ahead of Week 1. Teams can use two P-squad elevations each week, in addition to standard promotions — which require corresponding roster moves — ahead of the Saturday-afternoon deadline.

Better known as the player chosen with the second-round pick obtained for DeAndre Hopkins, Blacklock moved from Houston to Minnesota via trade in August 2022. But he did not make the Vikings’ 53-man roster this year. The fourth-year D-lineman will be a depth option for the Jaguars.