Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson impressed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at times during the team’s OTA sessions in the limited time the two players worked together. Not long after the Steelers reported to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe on Thursday for the start of their 2019 training camp, Johnson, the team’s first of two third-round draft picks this year, quickly impressed Roethlisberger again as the quarterback noted on Friday how well conditioned the rookie wide receiver out of Toledo appears to now be.
“Yeah there’s some excitement there for sure,” Roethlisberger said of Johnson. “Any young guy that comes in needs to always work conditioning, no rookie ever comes in and is in great condition. And I saw him run his conditioning test yesterday and I think he was barely breathing. And I heard he was here a lot in the offseason working. So you can tell that he really took that to heart, that he needed to get into shape and I’ve seen that so far, eve though it’s early.”
That’s a great sign when it comes to Johnson as Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith hinted during team OTAs that Johnson needed to show up at Latrobe for the start of training camp in much better shape than he was during the spring.
Outside of maybe not being the most conditioned player during team OTAs this past spring, Johnson, who turned 23 at the beginning of July, seemed to impress in all other areas while the team played football in shorts. While reportedly impressive this spring without any pads on, Roethlisberger is now is looking for that impressiveness from Johnson to continue on at Latrobe once the pads are put on.
“The next thing I want to see is how he plays and reacts with pads on,” Roethlisberger said Friday. “Because a lot of us look good with shorts and t-shirts, but once the pads come on and you have the capability of getting hit and stuff, we’ll see what happens. But I’m excited for it.”
Johnson will likely be doing battle with veteran wide receiver Dontae Moncrief for the right to be the team’s starting X receiver in 2019. While it wont be surprising if he’s unable to beat out Moncrief for the starting spot by the end of the preseason, he, along with several of the other wide receivers that make the 53-man roster this year, should all have plenty of opportunities to catch plenty of balls from Roethlisberger this season and make plays. Roethlisberger made it clear on Friday that while he does know a lot about several of his wide receivers currently on the roster, he’s now excited to see the improvements made this summer in the little subtle nuances associated with the offense and the wide receiver position.
“I know what they can do. I know they can catch. I know they can play,” said Roethlisberger. “I want to see who makes the least amount of mistakes. Who can get a subtle handle signal. Who can interpret even visual signals, looks and things like that. That is the fun part. That is the part I enjoy and they have enjoyed so far. Just seeing how we can mesh together.”