In addition to being battered by the 49ers to start their 2023 season, the Steelers also suffered major defeats on the injury front, losing both wide receiver Diontae Johnson and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward in their Week 1 30-7 loss.
Heyward is set to undergo surgery to repair a groin injury he suffered in the loss and is expected to miss about eight weeks, according to NFL Media. With that expected timeline for a return, the Steelers on Thursday placed Heyward on injured reserve. The six-time Pro Bowler was initially ruled questionable to return with a groin injury as Pittsburgh trailed 17-0. He did return to the field later, only to go back to the sidelines following a few snaps, where he was ruled out for the remainder of the game. The team's defensive front had already been dealing with injuries, with backups Armon Watts and DeMarvin Leal both hurt.
Johnson, meanwhile, left with a hamstring injury early in the second half and was ruled out about halfway through the third quarter. He led the Steelers with three catches for 48 yards on an otherwise dismal offensive day before exiting. The veteran is also expected to be sidelined several weeks, according to ESPN.
Pittsburgh's steadiest pass-catcher of recent years, Johnson entered 2023 looking to record his fourth straight season with at least 850 yards. Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett turned to younger wideouts George Pickens and Calvin Austin, as well as second-year tight end Pat Freiermuth, immediately following Johnson's exit.