The 2019 Steelers draft class is starting to look like a good one. Several of those players made a significant impact in thier rookie seasons. Let’s take a look at what we predict wil be the top five contributors in 2020:
5. Justin Layne:
Justin Layne was predominantly used on special teams in 2019. He eventually replaced Artie Burns on that unit as the season wore on. Look for more of the same from the second year corner in this upcoming season. If an injury to a starter were to occur, Layne could have a much bigger role with the team. As we speak, he is the only outside corner with any experience on the roster other than the starters.
4. Ulysses Gilbert III:
After an impressive pre-season, hopes were high that Ulysess Gilbert would be able to make an impact in 2019. A back injury sidelined his season about halfway through the campaign. It appears the Steelers will be counting on Gilbert for much more in 2020. They did not add an inside linebacker this off-season despite releasing veteran Mark Barron. This means Gilbert will be the number one backup at inside linebacker along with his special teams duties. He may even be able to push Vince Williams for playing time, especially on passing downs.
3. Benny Snell Jr.:
The Steelers stand to have a crowded running back room this upcoming season. The team already had four before they drafted Anthony McFarland in the fourth round. In a recent interview on the John Calapari podcast, Mike Tomlin had some glowing things to say about his second year runningback. https://247sports.com/college/kentucky/Article/Mike-Tomlin-talks-Kentucky-football-with-John-Calipari-147526602/
If another injury were to occur to James Conner, Snell might take the starting job and never give it back. He has a similar running style as Conner, but without all the injuries. Snell may indeed end up playing a very important part in the Steelers 2020 offense.
Devin Bush was THE biggest story coming out of the 2019 draft. Kevin Colbert did the unusual, and traded several asssets to move up and get his man. The team had to fill a dire need at inside linebacker after the injury to Ryan Shazier. Bush had everything the team loves in a linebacker including top end athleticism. He ranked second overall in SPARQ score at linebacker coming out of Michigan. We all know how much the Steelers value that metric. Steelers value SPARQ score when evaluating draft prospects
Devin Bush did not disappoint in 2019. He tallied 109 tackles, which was good enough to lead the team last season. He also managed two interceptions and a sack to go along with his tackle total. There is no reason to believe that 2020 will be an even better season for Bush. With a year in the system under his belt, we are looking at a Pro-Bowl linebacker in the making.
1. Diontae Johnson:
Not many people had heard of Diontae Johnson before the 2019 draft. Coming from a small school like Toledo, he didn’t come with much fan fare. It didn’t take long for people to notice the Steelers third round pick once the season started however. Johnson was the teams best wide reciever in 2019, and it wasn’t close. He finished the season with 680 yards and five touchdowns, which on its own is very good for a rookie reciever. When you take into consideration the Steelers quarterback situation last season, it becomes even more impressive. Now we have learned that Johnson played through an injury for the entire 2019 campaign. Being a rookie, with an injury, and catching passes from the likes of Duck Hodges make his accomplishments last season simply amazing. https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/steelers-diontae-johnson-recovering-from-sports-hernia-surgery-expected-to-be-cleared-soon/
The sky is the limit for Diontae Johnson in 2020. Now healthy, and with the return of Ben Roehtlisberger , we could be in for a monster season from the second year wideout. He is also a weapon as a punt returner with a touchdown return already under his belt. The comparisons to Antonio Brown will get louder with each passing game. We predict Diontae Jonson will surpass Ju Ju Smith-Schuster as the teams number one reciever. He is well on his way to becoming the next in a long line of great Steelers receivers.