I can confidently say it — the Steelers got their AB-lite in Diontae Johnson. WR was one of the needs this team had, even with the addition of Donte Moncrief and the increased expectations of James Washington. Antonio Brown’s loss was never going to be replaced by just one player, that was never, ever going to happen since Brown is so elite, but Johnson shores up the issues that they did not have after signing Moncrief.
In year one, Johnson will have a few key roles. While JuJu Smith-Schuster takes over the #1 receiver duties and Washington and Moncrief switch in and out at the Z, Johnson is the missing chess piece of it all. He is the versatility that they have been missing on the team. He can slide outside and still play out of the slot as well with his quickness and ability to beat press coverage. In other words, Johnson is going to get heavy snaps because of that versatility.
With slot receivers Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer still on roster, and I am going to guess, staying on roster with the Steelers carrying six receivers, Johnson might be stuck in the back shadow just for a little bit. However, this is an incredibly polished receiver with great route running, releases, YAC skills, and quickness in routes and in the open field.
Johnson will absolutely see snaps on offense and he will separate well too. But, in addition to that, he will see heavy special teams snaps. He could be the kick and punt returner depending on what Switzer shows in the pre-season. Johnson very well could do what Antonio Brown did in his first year, which is being the primary returner and only getting marginal snaps on offense in favor of veteran guys, in this case being Rogers and Switzer.
The bottom line is fairly simple. While Johnson has to fill out his slender frame, work up his frame to be more physical, and improve in contested situations, there is all time for that. He is a polished prospect who will give you immense value from Day 1 and should be a starter either as returner or literally as a receiver on offense. This is as much of a ‘now’ pick as you can get at WR, and value aside, this is a really, really solid pick that fills the needs the Steelers had to fill at WR.