This shouldn’t come to anybody who has been following along as a surprise, but during the second day of training camp yesterday, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson, a third-round draft pick, told Mike Prisuta for the team’s website that he was not in great shape during the spring.
Johnson was limited for most of that time due to a tight hamstring, and attributed that to his workout schedule being interrupted by the pre-draft process, which included eight pre-draft visits, one of them being with the Steelers on April 12. So Pittsburgh ended up contributing to his largely being limited to individual drills.
But he assures us now that his conditioning is now night and day, telling Prisuta that he will “be able to run all day and make plays”. His new quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, corroborated this, as the veteran told reporters that he observed Johnson’s conditioning test and commented that it didn’t even seem as though he was getting out of breath.
Johnson’s conditioning level is notable given the potential roles that the Steelers will have in mind for him. You might recall that special teams coordinator Danny Smith recently commented on his conditioning level and the fact that he dealt with hamstring issues in the spring, and that if he were to be the team’s return man, he would have to show up to training camp in better shape.
He has, and Johnson is aware of what that could mean for the impact he can have on the team on both the offensive and special teams units. “I’m able to do that”, he said of the multi-tasking possibility as a rookie, something that JuJu Smith-Schuster also did two years ago.
I’m in shape. I can run. I’m not going to be tired out here”, he added. “That’s the thing I’m ready to put on tape, show I can run all day”.
So far, Johnson has mostly been running with the second-team offense, but the wide receiver groups have been really fluid through the first two training camp sessions, which should be no surprise. He has gotten in with the first-team unit and Roethlisberger on a number of occasions, though he did reportedly drop a pass or two and hasn’t made a huge impact just yet.
Not that that should be alarming in any way, of course, as things are just getting started. There will be plenty of time for the rookie to make headway as the final stretch of the offseason develops and we get into preseason games.
For the moment, it appears that the team is set to start with Smith-Schuster and veteran Donte Moncrief, with James Washington functioning as the number three (though not slot) receiver. Eli Rogers has also gotten slot work with the first team, while Johnson and Ryan Switzer have been sprinkled in.