Heading into their Week 3 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be without some key pieces on both sides of the ball based on their injury report from Friday. On offense, the biggest loss will be starting wide receiver, Diontae Johnson.
Johnson leads the Steelers in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and he’s their only wide receiver to catch a touchdown so far this season.
In case you couldn’t tell based on that, he is a very important piece to the way the Steelers run their offense as he is the most involved wide receiver week to week.
While Jonson is out with a knee injury, who will replace his production? The short answer, by committee.
While he is out, it is very likely SteelerNation will see an increased role of 4th year WR James Washington. Washington is someone that most of SteelerNation have been wanting to see more opportunity for, as when he sees the field, he always seems to produce.
However, it is unlikely Washington can replace the production being lost by Johnson alone. Some will point to an increased role for both Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster as well, as they have acted as 2a and 2b in terms of targets.
Even with three wide receivers that are capable of stepping up and assuming more responsibility, I don’t think Steelers offensive coordinator, Matt Canada and the Pittsburgh offense will stop there in their efforts to replace Johnson this week.
It is quite likely we see more 12 or 21 personnel this week against the Bengals. For those that don’t know, 12 personnel is one running back and two tight ends, while 21 is two backs and one tight end.
The Steelers have a very good fullback in Derek Watt that has seen very limited snaps on offense this year, while also possessing two tight ends that are capable of making an impact in a multitude of ways in Eric Ebron and Pat Freiermuth.
Going with more 12 or 21 personnel wouldn’t just help provide some additional replacement for Johnson’s production through mismatches, it will also most likely lead to some more success with their ground game. In case you haven’t watched the first two weeks, anything to help the running game will be greatly welcomed by both the team and SteelerNation.
No matter how the elect to try and replace what Johnson brings to their offense, it is clear the Steelers are going to have to get creative doing it with how involved he was through the first two weeks. However, they do have several options to do so.
Let us know below how you think the Steelers should look to fill the void left by an injury to Johnson this week against the Bengals!