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Steelers Could Land Fiery S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a need at safety and slot cornerback, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson fits the bill perfectly.



Pittsburgh Steelers C.J. Gardner Johnson

The Pittsburgh Steelers have big needs to fill at defensive back. They need a safety, slot cornerback, and an outside cornerback just based on the initial view of the team. But some guys could fill multiple spots by being a safety and coming down to play in the slot. One of those names is the fiery Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Gardner-Johnson has played with the Saints, Eagles, and Lions and has proven to be a net boon to each defense.

He’s chirpy, but that’s his personality. And Pro Football Network believes that he is the type of player who fits what the Steelers do well on defense, especially with their needs on the back end.

“Steelers slot corner Chandon Sullivan is on track for free agency, while Pittsburgh might try to find a better second safety to play opposite Minkah Fitzpatrick this offseason. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson could compete for both roles and shouldn’t cost much after missing most of the 2023 campaign with a pectoral injury. Another one-year contract in the $6-8 million range could make sense,” they wrote.

This past season, he earned $6.5 million from the Lions, but if the Steelers want to shore up the spot next to Minkah Fitzpatrick and get some stability in the slot, it would make sense to extend that to two to three seasons. Gardner-Johnson has not found a long-term home yet, but the tape clearly shows he is worthy of that deal over multiple seasons.

Of course, the Steelers have three safeties under contract: Damontae Kazee, Keanu Neal and Fitzpatrick. Still, it feels like a natural inclination that change is coming to that room after the play they received in 2023. Pairing Gardner-Johnson with someone like a returning Eric Rowe would make sense, as it would give the team that flexibility on the back-end of the defense.

Fitzpatrick played far too much in the slot and the box in 2023. It took out one of his best strengths, his range, and made him too stationary to unleash on quarterbacks. They need to get back to the roots of what made him great, and Gardner-Johnson’s flexibility and ball skills fit what they want to do beautifully.

He did not play that much last season due to a leg injury in training camp and a pectoral injury that he suffered early in the season. But when he did play, Gardner-Johnson was integral to the Lions’ secondary. Gardner-Johnson also has an extensive history as a blitzer, which adds to his appeal here. The Steelers, outside of Fitzpatrick, rarely stuck to their roots as a team that blitzes the slot often. But Gardner-Johnson would bring that flair back to the defense to create more looks that they could bring out up front.