Last week during the final OTA practices, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson talked about the limited time he had recently received with the first-team offense and more specifically, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Johnson, who was the team’s first of two third-round draft picks this year, explained during that media session how Roethlisberger tested him some during those limited reps and how he felt that overall he passed. On Tuesday, Roethlisberger seemingly confirmed that his rookie wide receiver passed those tests.
“The one thing I noticed was he caught every ball I threw to him,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I even threw him some bad balls on purpose, throw some high, behind him, just to see if he would catch them. And he caught every one. It was impressive.”
Roethlisberger describing a rookie wide receiver as being impressive during OTAs is in itself, impressive. And it doesn’t sound like any of what he said was hyperbole, either, and that’s certainly great news.
Also during Roethlisberger’s Tuesday mandatory minicamp session he made sure to note that not only has he spent some extra time with Johnson this offseason, he’s made sure to do the same with fellow wide receiver Donte Moncrief, a veteran offseason free agency addition, so that he can get to know him better. Moncrief talked quite a bit over the last three weeks about how important it is for him to get on the same page with Roethlisberger as quickly as possible so that the quarterback knows what all routes he can run so that trust in each other can be established. On Tuesday, Roethlisberger went as far as to name Moncrief as the player who has impressed him the most so far this offseason.
“I’d probably go with Donte Moncrief just because it’s new,” Roethlisberger said per steelers.com. “I kind of know what to expect from some of the other guys. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when he came in. I didn’t know him and now just getting to see his work ethic, the type of person he is, his desire to be great, his knowledge of the offense already. We’ll do no-huddle stuff and I’ll give him a signal and I’ll be like, ‘You good?’ and he’ll be like, ‘Yeah.’ He is in with coach (Darryl) Drake every single morning, pretty much all day.
“You see a desire and the want to be great. I’ve really enjoyed to opportunity to know him and to work with him so far. This is an awesome opportunity that he’s here and we’re getting to work together. He was with us when we went on our trip. It’s just, it’s been fun to get to know him as a person too.”
The Steelers obviously suffered a big offseason loss in March when they traded away wide receiver Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders and now Moncrief and Johnson must find a way to help fill that void at the X position.
“It will be fun,” said Roethlisberger, when asked about the offense now trying to fill the void left by the trading away of Brown this offseason. “There are some holes that have been lost. We have a lot of guys who desire to fill those voids. It’s not going to be one person. It’s going to be a lot of different people.”
Now that Roethlisberger has spoken about two of the team’s primary offseason wide receiver additions, it will be interesting to hear what wide receivers coach Darryl Drake has to say about Moncrief and Johnson when he talks to the media. That could happen as early as Tuesday afternoon and we’ll make sure to pass along those quotes in a future post should that be the case.