2017 Offseason Questions: Odds Of Repeat Roster Spot For Steven Johnson?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Heading into training camp, what are the odds of inside linebacker Steven Johnson making the 53-man roster?

When the Steelers signed Steven Johnson to their 90-man roster via a veteran qualifying contract for the minimum salary, it initiated a bit of a debate about the odds of him making the 53-man roster. Given the number of players already at the position, it seemed he would be an outside shot, yet free agent signings have such a long and strong track record of making the team.

Technically speaking, he actually did not make the initial 53-man roster, as the team chose him to be the player to sacrifice in order to be able to place Bud Dupree on injured reserve with the eligibility to return later on in the season.

But after the qualification of being on the roster for Dupree was met and he was moved to the injured reserve list, Johnson was promptly re-signed, and he spent the rest of the year on the 53-man roster, until he suffered a season-ending injury himself.

The curious thing here is that, with Lawrence Timmons gone, there should theoretically be room for all five inside linebackers, but this year, the team has a lot of depth at other areas that would seem to make it unlikely that they would carry more than four at his position.

So that means there’s a more than reasonable chance that only two of Johnson, Tyler Matakevich, and L.J. Fort will make the 53-man roster. Matakevich, a second-year player, was the only one of the three to be consistently active and led the team in special teams tackles.

When it comes to Fort, it can’t be overlooked that the team cut him during the season and only re-signed him when Johnson got injured. But it also can’t be overlooked that he is the only one of the reserve linebackers with a bit of agility, which could be pretty important given Ryan Shazier’s injury history.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • nutty32

    Johnson was pretty darn good on special teams. I’d keep him over LJ. If Shazier got hurt long term, not sure either of these guys will be the answer.

  • LucasY59

    the team lost Timmons and didnt add anyone new to the group so I think his chances are better than last yr (but I thought it was a bit of a surprise he made it last yr)

    I think Matakevich is the main backup to VW, but they might want to keep SJ as a vet guy that is also good on STs

    his main competition is Fort and I could see LJ being kept instead of him, but right now I think its a pretty even race (and I doubt they keep a 5th ILB)

    will be good competition in camp and whoever makes the roster is good enough that I will feel pretty confident in the ILB group (a major injury would change that, but a injury to a starter is tough to deal with no matter what position)

  • Iulo

    Johnson will be very good…. PIT needs him to backup V. Williams

  • RickM

    His ST play is to be commended. But any playing time on D will be through attrition and expectations should not be high. They can’t possibly enter the season this paper thin in terms of quality depth. Can they?

  • Big White

    So, Dirty Red led the Steelers in ST tackles, was 9th in league ST Total Tackles, 7th in the league in ST Solo Tackles …….. as a rookie.

    However, according to A LOT of Steelers fans he can’t run. umk

  • Big White

    I say Johnson is the odd man out. Fort has more to offer in the Base D.

  • kevin Duffin

    As things stand right now, he has a pretty darn good chance considering the loss of Timmons. I feel good about our starters on the inside, but am nervous about the depth behind them. I feel like they are going to add someone after roster cuts. At which point, it may be at the expense of Fort and or Johnson

  • Gautama Om

    You’re talking about the general population; obviously there’s going to be some people more mentally challenged than us.

    We never said he was All Pro but he doesn’t deserved to be disrespect so much especially when he’s more than held up his own end of the contract as a ROOKIE.

    If players were judged by measurables then players like Heyward-Bey and Dri Archer would be Hall of Famers.

    Or supposed busts as:

    1) a QB who’s 5’10” 5/8 but who’s a Probowler 3 times and SB champ (Russell Wilson)
    2) a WR who ran 4.71 but who’s considered possibly the best WR of all time (Jerry Rice)
    3) a WR who ran 4.77 but who was Probowler in 2015 and 2016 (Jarvis Landry)
    4) a WR who ran 4.71 but who was a Probowler 3 times and SB champ (Anquan Boldin)
    5) a LB who ran 5.09 but who became a Probowler in 2013 (Burfict)…yes FIVE, POINT, ZERO, NINE

    but but but…yeah my butt

    I’m sure (to be very conservative) Metakevich will be fine and we’ll be fine with his 4.81s. He’s already got a huge edge on the 40 time over Burfict and smarter and more studious.

  • Rocksolid20

    After pre season cut , we may add another back up at ILB