Recently Released Steelers LB Joins 49ers: A ‘Wasted Draft Pick’

Steelers Linebacker Buddy Johnson

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images Buddy Johnson of the Pittsburgh Steelers during a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles on August 12, 2021.

The Pittsburgh Steelers waived inside linebacker Buddy Johnson on August 30 as part of the team’s second-to-last round of roster cuts. Less than a week later, the Texas A&M product found employment with a new team, joining the practice squad of the San Francisco 49ers.

“Buddy Johnson adds some developmental thump to a 49ers LB room that is already grooming the speedy Marcelino McCrary-Ball on the practice squad for future use,” tweeted David Lombardi, who covers the 49ers for The Athletic, on September 5.

But to Steelers fans on Twitter, Johnson represents nothing more than a bad draft pick, with the phrases “waste of a 4th-round pick” and “wasted mid-round draft pick” repeated multiple times.

Johnson — 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds — was selected No. 140 overall in 2021. He appeared in four games as a rookie, playing 59 special teams snaps but a mere six snaps on defense.

Perhaps the Steelers might have given him more time to develop, except for the emergence of rookie seventh-round inside linebacker Mark Robinson, who completely outshone Johnson in training camp and is currently backing up Myles Jack at right inside linebacker.

Those two will play alongside Devin Bush and Robert Spillane, with Marcus Allen also an option.

At the moment, Chapelle Russell is the only inside ’backer on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, having been signed on the first day of September. Russell, 25, is a former seventh-round pick of the Buccaneers who played in 11 games for Tampa Bay as a rookie. In 2021 he appeared in 16 games (with one start) for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Chris Steele Signs to the Miami Dolphins Practice Squad

One of the other defenders cut alongside Buddy Johnson on August 30 was rookie defensive back Chris Steele, who played his college football at USC.

Much like Johnson, Steele has found a new team — having signed to the practice squad of the Miami Dolphins, with the news first reported by Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network.

Steele appeared in 29 games during the three seasons he spent at USC, recording 94 tackles, three interceptions and 15 passes defensed.

Steelers to Retire Franco Harris’ No. 32 Jersey

On September 6, the Steelers announced that the organization would retire Franco Harris’ number on December 24, 2022, coinciding with a visit to Acrisure Stadium by the Las Vegas Raiders and the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac tweeted that Harris is just the third Steelers player to have his number retired, following in the footsteps of “Mean” Joe Greene (No. 75) and Ernie Stautner (No. 70).

The former Steelers running back had a great quote at his press conference on Tuesday, saying: “What an honor it is for me to have my number 32 jersey hanging alongside Ernie Stautner and alongside my friend and former teammate, Joe Greene. As they say, it’s like giving you flowers while you’re still around to smell them.”

In addition, Harris will be one of two former Steelers featured during the next season of “A Football Life,” with the other being Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback/kick returner Rod Woodson, who starred for the Steelers from 1987-1996.