Steelers Host Former MAC Wide Receiver

Anthony Johnson Buffalo Bulls

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images Anthony Johnson of the Buffalo Bulls avoids a tackle from Rodney Williams of the Temple Owls on his way to a touchdown at Lincoln Financial Field on September 8, 2018.

On Wednesday the Pittsburgh Steelers had free agent wide receiver Anthony Johnson (University of Buffalo) in for a visit, this according to yesterday’s NFL visits and workouts sheet.

Never mind that the Steelers are in good shape at wide receiver, except for JuJu Smith-Schuster’s lingering knee issue and the fact that Diontae Johnson has been hampered by various ailments all season long.

Anthony Johnson (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) is a name that may be vaguely familiar to Steelers fans as he was with the team in training camp but was waived injured on August 27 (to make room for linebacker Jayrone Elliott) and subsequently waived with an injury settlement in early September.

Pro Football Focus had him rated “just outside” its top 15 receivers in the 2019 NFL Draft, calling him “a big target with crisp route-running ability, great speed and reliable hands at the catch point.”

PFF regards his strengths as his contested catch ability, his after-the-catch ability, his penchant for having success with the deep ball, and “making the most of his snaps.”

Yet despite his college production and measurables, Johnson went undrafted and has been trying to catch on via the free agent route. The main question mark that continues to surround his game is whether he was a product of the lesser level of competition in the Mid-American Conference (MAC)—and whether he can continue to be productive when going against the bigger, faster cornerbacks in the NFL.

Anthony Johnson’s NFL Journey

Johnson entered the league in the spring of 2019 when he was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had five catches on ten targets during the 2019 preseason but failed to make the team’s 53-man roster, after which he was added to the practice squad of the Los Angeles Chargers. In January of this year he signed a futures contract with the Steelers.

Johnson was a two-time First-Team All-MAC selection at Buffalo, where as a junior he caught 76 passes for 1,356 yards and 14 touchdowns in 12 games. He followed that up with a senior season in which he had 1,011 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. His biggest game came as a senior against Miami (Ohio), when he had 238 yards and three TDs.

Moreover, his production compared very favorably against some of the top receivers in the 2019 NFL Draft, including A.J. Brown (selected #51 overall by the Tennessee Titans), Andy Isabella (selected #62 overall by the Arizona Cardinals) and Pittsburgh’s very own third-round pick, Diontae Johnson (#66 overall).

Prior to playing two seasons with the Buffalo Bulls, Johnson spent two years in junior college, at Butler Community College and Iowa Western Community College.

Pittsburgh Has 3 Receivers on Its Practice Squad

However, at this time Pittsburgh already has three wide receivers on its 16-man practice squad, including practice squad-protected WR Deon Cain.

The other two practice squad receivers are Cody White, a rookie from Michigan State, and Amara Darboh, a third-year receiver out of the University of Michigan. One of the latter two might go if the team elects to re-sign Johnson.

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