Round 3 Analysis

Never buy that the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t draft for need.

Just like on Thursday in addressing a major need at inside linebacker, Day 2 was about checking some other boxes.

With the 66th overall pick the Steelers selected Toledo wide receiver Diontae Johnson (5-11, 180) and 17 picks later, the Steelers select cornerback Justin Layne (6-2, 192).

The value of getting a cornerback was always going to be in Round 2 or Round 3 not Round 1. Despite a run on cornerbacks prior to the Steelers picking, Layne is a high value pick at No. 83.

At 6-2, Layne brings length and athleticism to the table, running a 4.5.

“You can’t have enough corners on your team,” DB coach Teryl Austin said of Lane. “With the amount of running they do, they help you on special teams, you get nicked, you have to have people to get in there because they play four, five receiver packages these days. Those guys are important, and I don’t think you can ever have enough corners on your roster.”

With Artie Burns a bust and starters Joe Haden, Steven Nelson both under 6-foot, the Steelers went into the draft putting a high priority on bigger corners who can play the outside.

“Right now, I see him more as an outside guy to start with, Austin said. “In terms of learning and getting him ready, that’s what I’ll do.”

Austin also praised Layne’s ability to be physical at the line of scrimmage.

“He’s very elusive at the line of scrimmage,” Drake said. “You need a guy who gets off bump. He gets off bump.”

Pittsburgh’s track record is not strong with cornerbacks drafted in rounds 1-3, but there’s a feeling among draft experts Layne has the ability to help this season.

“Very, very good pick in the third round,” ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick said of Layne.

Johnson a reach at #66?

You knew the Steelers would come out of Day 2 adding a skilled player.

WR Diontae Johnson out of Toledo is one of those players who went much higher than expected but Pittsburgh wasn’t the only team targeting him that early, as Bruce Arians and the Tampa Bay Bucs had their sights set on Johnson early in Round 3.

“I got cussed out by the Tampa Bay head coach who called me some names for taking him,” WR Darryl Drake said of the Steelers drafting Johnson. “That was his guy four picks later. We all talk. That was the one guy that everybody talked about. He was the one guy, there was not one guy and there were a lot that I talked to, who did not like this guy.”

What the Steelers love about Johnson is the route running ability, how he’s a playmaker in the open field with the ball in his hands and many rave about his character, an area the Steelers are starting to take serious.

“Once I put on the pads and get the ball in my hands, I’m way faster than I ran in the 40-yard dash. I can play football. I’ve got football speed,” Johnson said.

Why some draft pundits see Johnson as a major reach:

He’s not a great athlete when you breakdown the measurables, doesn’t have top-end speed (4.53, forty), is smallish, and comes from a MAC school where he didn’t put up great numbers.

“Don’t even think because he’s from a small school this [hide] cat can’t play, because he can play,” Drake said.

Johnson had 49 catches for 761 yards and eight touchdowns for the Rockets in 2018 and is also a return specialist where he averaged 18.5 yards per punt return and 25.8 yards last season as a redshirt junior.

Every team is giddy about their draft picks and throughout his press conference, Drake couldn’t stop raving about Johnson as a player and person.

“I basically fell in love with him after spending time with him, dining with him, talking to him and seeing his passion for the game, his passion for wanting to be great,” said Drake. He’s a tremendously gifted young man, the most naturally gifted catcher I’ve seen in a long while.”

Beyond JuJu Smith-Schuster, there is a ton of competition among the Steelers receiving corps and lots of question marks.

Donte Moncrief will enter camp as the No. 2. Moncrief is an outside presence to stretch the field and he’s going to have a shot to surprise a lot of people.

Theres hope in the organization that James Washington takes a big step into year 2 and eventually becomes that No. 2 option in 2019, but with everyone outside of Smith-Schuster, it’s a wait and see.

The Steelers now have three similar receivers in Diontae Johnson, Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer who will be battling for playing time.

If you looked at the Steelers biggest needs on day 2 in how the board was breaking by pick 66, the options were OLB, WR and CB.

Time will tell if the Steelers passing on Chase Winovich ends up being a mistake.