Pittsburgh Steelers Lose Diontae Johnson, Cam Heyward for Several Weeks

Posted on: September 13, 2023, 03:06h. 

Last updated on: September 13, 2023, 04:32h.

The Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson sustained a hamstring injury in the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. The Steelers also lost six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Cam Heyward to a groin injury in Week 1.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson, seen here with a reception against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 at Heinz Field, could miss several weeks with a hamstring injury. (Image: Getty)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson, seen here with a reception against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 at Heinz Field, could miss several weeks with a hamstring injury.

The Steelers were a popular betting selection as a +2 home underdog against the 49ers in Week 1. The Steelers struggled to keep up with the 49ers in a 30-7 blowout.

The 49ers jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and the Steelers never recovered. The Steelers trailed 20-0 before they scored a touchdown with ten seconds remaining in the second quarter. That would be their only score of the day.

The 49ers added 10 more points in the second half and their defense shut out the Steelers the rest of the game. The 49ers cruised to a 30-7 victory.

Diontae Johnson Headlines Week 2 Injury Report

Johnson played 27 offensive snaps in Week 1 prior to his hamstring injury. He caught three passes for 48 yards against the 49ers.

Johnson sustained a hamstring injury when he went down after snatching a 26-yard reception. He grabbed his leg as soon as the play ended and needed assistance off the field. After a quick examination on the sidelines, he headed to the locker room and was ruled out for the rest of the game.

Heyward suffered a groin injury in the first half against the 49ers. Heyward will undergo surgery, and he’s expected to miss four to six weeks.

“Losing Cam is significant, but that’s what team is about,” said head coach Mike Tomlin. “Replacing Cam is not a one-man job, man. It is a multiple-man job and a coach’s job because it changes your schematics when you lose significant players. We all acknowledge that, and we all run to that, not away from that. That’s an opportunity for us to show what team is about things that we hold near and dear, like next man up.”

Tomlin will lean on four different defensive linemen to fill in for Heyward, including Isaiahh Loudermilk, DeMarvin Leal, Armon Watts, and rookie Keeanu Benton.

The Steelers saw four other key players go down to injuries in the season opener, including tight end Pat Freiermuth (chest), right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor (concussion), right guard James Daniels (lower body), and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi (foot).

Next Man Up at WR: George Pickens, Allen Robinson II

Johnson is a versatile wide receiver who could line up on the outside or in the slot. He had two outstanding seasons with the Steelers in 2020 and 2021 during the tail end of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s career. He tallied 195 receptions, 15 touchdowns, and racked up 2,084 yards in those two seasons, emerging as a popular target for Roethlisberger.

Johnson saw a huge dip in stats in 2022 during quarterback Kenny Pickett’s rookie season. He hauled in 86 receptions for 882 yards, but failed to hook up with a touchdown pass from Pickett.

George Pickens will become Pickett’s primary target, and he moves into the WR #1 role. Pickens, a second-round pick from Georgia, had a strong rookie season in 2022 when he recorded 52 receptions for 801 yards and four touchdowns.

The Steelers signed veteran Allen Robinson II in the off-season. Robinson spent four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and four more with the Chicago Bears before heading to the Los Angeles Rams in 2022. Robinson is in his tenth NFL season, and he scored 43 touchdowns and snagged 533 receptions during his career. Robinson, a popular Week 2 waiver wire pickup, slides into the WR #2 spot while Johnson nurses his hamstring injury.

Calvin Austin III caught six passes in Week 1, and he will take over as the slot receiver. The Steelers drafted Austin with a fourth-round pick out of Memphis in 2022, but he missed his entire rookie season because of a foot injury.

The Steelers also have Gunner Olszewski on the roster. Olszewski was an undrafted player from Bemidji State, which is a Division II football school in Minnesota that is more known for its D1 ice hockey program.

Betting the 0-1 Steelers

The Steelers have been a model of consistency over the last 20 years. Their last losing season occurred two decades ago in 2003. In 16 seasons as the head coach of the Steelers, Tomlin has never posted a losing season.

Tomlin and the Steelers dropped the season opener, and they’re looking to avoid an 0-2 start. Since the NFL merged with the AFL in 1970, only 39 teams qualified for the playoffs after an 0-2 start. Tomlin is well aware of this historical stat, which is why the Steelers view Week 2’s matchup against the Cleveland Brown (1-0) as a must-win spot so early in the season.

The Steelers currently have a win total of 8.5 over/under. The over pays out +130 odds, and the under is -150 odds.

The Steelers are +205 odds to qualify for the postseason, according to DraftKings. They’re -255 odds to miss the playoffs.

The Steelers opened Week 2 as a +2 underdog against the Browns on Monday Night Football. The line has moved a half-point to +2.5. For a second week in a row, the Steelers are a home dog.

The AFC North is synonymous with “smashmouth” football because the long-standing division rivals pummel the heck out of each other whenever they meet on the gridiron. The Browns and Baltimore Ravens (1-0) are the betting cofavorites to win the AFC North at +200 odds.

The Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) were picked off by the Browns in Week 1 after a lackluster performance from quarterback Joe Burrow. The Bengals were the preseason favorite to win the AFC North, but they’re now +245 odds to win the division.

The Steelers saw their futures dip after a Week 1 loss. They’re a long shot to win the AFC North at +750 odds, and projected to finish in last place. They’re also +7500 odds to win Super Bowl LVIII, and +3000 odds to win the AFC Championship.