The trajectory of Diontae Johnson’s injury status will have fantasy football managers concerned heading into Week 14. Johnson was a surprise name on the Pittsburgh Steelers injury report Wednesday with a hip injury, and the news got worse on Thursday. Let’s take a look at the latest injury update for Johnson and the fantasy impact for George Pickens and the other pass-catching options.
Is Diontae Johnson’s Injury a Major Concern in Week 14?
When Johnson was first listed on the Steelers’ injury report on Wednesday, it was a surprise, but it was not considered a major concern. We had seen Johnson deal with a hip injury earlier in the season, at which time he was limited in practice but did not miss sessions or any games.
However, we didn’t receive any real clarity Wednesday on Johnson’s injury. It could have just been a re-aggravation of the injury earlier in the year and something they had been monitoring and felt needed some rest. On Friday, Johnson told reporters he hurt his hip near the end of the game against the Falcons.
Johnson was able to practice Friday and told reporters that it is as much about pain management for him as anything. He is listed as questionable heading into the weekend and will be a game-time decision on Sunday.
That leaves fantasy managers in somewhat of a state of limbo heading. Fortunately, no decisions will need to be made now until we have more information on Johnson. We should get some kind of update from the Steelers when they talk to the media on Friday, and we’ll have a clearer idea when we have a game status.
How fantasy managers then approach Johnson this week will somewhat feed off of that.
Fantasy Outlook for Johnson, George Pickens, Pat Freiermuth, and Others
Further complicating the picture this week is that the Baltimore Ravens have been a solid unit against opposing wide receivers this past month. Baltimore’s defense has allowed just 13.43 fantasy points per game against opposing WRs in that stretch. That is the fifth-lowest output against the position in the past four weeks, and the Ravens have not allowed more than 20 fantasy points to receivers since Week 7.
Johnson has also been an extremely underwhelming fantasy producer this year. He is averaging just 7.6 fantasy points per game in half-PPR scoring, the lowest output of his career. We haven’t seen Johnson score more than 10 fantasy points in half-PPR since Week 3, with only three scores of eight or more in that time.
While Johnson would likely be a fringe 12-team Flex option this week with six teams on a bye, this injury situation changes that completely. If he is limited going into the game on Sunday, it’s hard to trust a player who’s been less than reliable when healthy this year.
This is a situation where fantasy managers will need to look carefully at their rosters and our Week 14 WR fantasy rankings to see whether Johnson is worth the risk.
The question if Johnson is limited or inactive is where the targets he commands in the offense go. Johnson averages 8.75 targets per game this season, which is around a 25% share of the Steelers’ offense. With Chase Claypool in Chicago, it’s been Pat Freiermuth and George Pickens who have been the second and third-receiving options.
It would not be a surprise to see the Steelers lean heavily on Freiermuth this week while Pickens also takes on a larger role on the outside. More targets then likely funnel to Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris, boosting their value a touch.
Pickens, Freiermuth, and Harris are all reasonable starting options in 12-team leagues this week if Johnson is limited or inactive. Warren is a fringe starting option, but that is really the extent of the value in this Steelers offense.
In Underdog Fantasy Best Ball formats, Pickens is the player to take a speculative shot on late in drafts. He could be heavily involved in the offense and also has big-play ability. Freiermuth is also intriguing just because he could be in line for double-digit targets, which has a lot of value as a floor option in Best Ball leagues.