Steelers’ Cam Heyward, Diontae Johnson to miss multiple games

Steelers’ Cam Heyward, Diontae Johnson to miss multiple games

Pittsburgh’s high hopes for the 2023 campaign took major hits in the club’s season opener. As if the 30-7 beatdown from San Francisco wasn’t enough, the Steelers are going to be without two of their best players for several games.

Cam Heyward, the team’s six-time Pro-Bowl defensive tackle, has a groin injury that’s going to keep him out for at least a few weeks. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, a decision hasn’t been made yet on whether or not Heyward will undergo surgery. Heyward and the Steelers are seeking another medical opinion before making that call.

UPDATE: Heyward opted to have surgery and probably won’t be able to return until November. 

Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh’s best wide receiver and most explosive playmaker, sustained a hamstring injury in the home loss to the 49ers. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported this morning that the injury will cause Johnson to miss “a few weeks.”

Johnson was targeted six times vs. San Francisco, and he made three catches for 48 yards. But on his biggest play of the day – a 26-yard reception – he went down awkwardly and suffered the injury.

Since the Steelers took Johnson out of Toledo in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, he’s only missed two regular-season games. In four seasons (plus one game this year), Johnson has 343 career catches for 3,694 yards and 20 TDs. He also has 134 rushing yards and a 7.1 yards-per-carry average on 19 attempts, in addition to returning a punt for a TD as a rookie.

This is the 34-year-old Heyward’s 13th season with the Steelers, who took the Ohio St. product with the No. 31 overall pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He didn’t miss a game in his first five seasons in the league before missing nine games in 2016.

Since the start of the 2017 campaign, Heyward has only missed two games. He’s off a 2022 season in which he recorded 74 tackles, 11.5 stuffs, 10.5 sacks, four passes broken up, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Heyward has 614 career tackles, 78.5 sacks, 64.5 stuffs, 46 PBU, eight forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, four blocked kicks and two interceptions.

Pittsburgh second-year QB Kenny Pickett struggled against the 49ers, who raced out to a 20-0 lead midway through the second quarter. The Steelers finally got on the board with 10 seconds left until halftime when Pickett found Pat Freiermuth for a three-yard TD pass to cap a 12-play, 95-yard drive.

But Christian McCaffrey extended San Francisco’s lead to 27-7 less than minute into the third quarter with a 65-yard TD run.

Pickett ended up completing 31-of-46 throws for 232 yards with a pair of interceptions. Without Johnson, the Steelers still have options at WR with veteran Allen Robinson and a pair of talented young wideouts in George Pickens and Calvin Austin.

Pittsburgh hosts Cleveland in Week 2 on Monday Night Football. Most books had the Steelers as one-point home favorites for the look-ahead line going into Sunday’s games.

However, most spots went with the Browns at -1 when they re-opened the number early Sunday evening. With the news of Heyward and Johnson’s injuries, that number has moved up to -2.5 at the Westgate SuperBook and Circa. Most other spots still have Cleveland at -2.

The total is 40 or 40.5 points.

Cleveland also got bad injury news yesterday when it announced that starting OT Jack Conklin has a torn ACL and MCL and needs season-ending surgery.