After reportedly not being a full participant in the team’s annual rookie minicamp a few weekends ago due to an undisclosed injury, it sounds Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson, the team’s first of two third-round draft picks this year, was able to practice fully during the first OTA session of 2019.
During his post OTA practice session with the local media, Johnson, a Toledo product, was asked if an injury indeed prevented him from participating in the team’s rookie minicamp. The rookie, however, wouldn’t take the media bait.
“Nah, you probably have to ask Coach [Mike] Tomlin about that,” Johnson said. “But it wasn’t nothing.”
As mentioned, Johnson appears to have been able to stat practicing fully as of Tuesday and he was asked where he mostly lined up in the offense during the first OTA session of 2019.
“I took like one rep inside but the majority of the reps were like outside,” Johnson said. “So that’s what I’m kind of focusing on right now.”
Johnson played all over the place on offense during his college career at Toledo and that means he worked extensively at the X receiver position as well as in the slot. However, now that he’s a member of the Steelers, it’s likely that Johnson will get a lot of early reps at the X position and behind veteran wide receiver Donte Moncrief, who was signed this offseason as an unrestricted free agent. Johnson made it known following Tuesday’s practice that he believes the Steelers have a great and deep group of wide receivers under contract right now that he can learn from and compete against.
“We’ve got solid group, in my opinion,” Johnson said. “Donte Moncrief and all the rest of the guys, we got a solid group, Like I said, we’re just trying to move forward.”
The Steelers offense is indeed now attempting to move forward without the services of wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was traded to the Oakland Raiders this past offseason. Johnson, by the way, exits college being compared somewhat to Brown when he was drafted out of Central Michigan in 2010. On Tuesday, Johnson, who like Brown comes from a MAC school, admitted that he’s studied Brown some already.
“I look at his releases and how he catches the ball,” Johnson said of Brown. “How he comes out of his breaks and those types of things and try to apply to my game. Because I feel my release is just as similar to his and my route running, also.”
While Johnson won’t have an older player in Brown to learn from as a member of the Steelers as he starts his NFL career, he will have a player younger than him in JuJu Smith-Schuster to learn from. Johnson, in fact, made it known on Tuesday that him being older than Smith-Schuster doesn’t really mean a thing to him.
“I’m older than JuJu, but I look up to JuJu,” Johnson said. “He’s the one that I’m going to latch on to because he’s been successful and I’m trying to follow in his footsteps right now, trying to get my game going and try to soak up as much information as I can from him.”