Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson has now overtaken veteran wide receiver Donte Moncrief on the team’s depth chart. This year’s third-round draft pick out of Toledo confirmed the obvious elevation on Friday during his brief chat with the media, according to 93.7 The Fan.
“They didn’t say nothing,” Johnson said when asked what the coaches said he did to earn a bigger opportunity in the offense moving forward. “They just put me in and told me I’m going to be the starter from here on out. And I just got to keep executing and making plays. Help the team win.”
Johnson, who has four catches for 42 yards in the Steelers first two regular season games of 2019, was asked on Friday if he’s now ready for a more expanded role on offense starting Sunday on the road against the San Francisco 49ers.
“Yeah, I’m just really trying to do what I can now that I am in the offense right now, starting,” Johnson said. “Just trying to continue to show the coaches that I know what I’m doing and get ready for Sunday.”
While Johnson has only played just over 50 total offensive snaps in the first two games of the season, he credits the other wide receivers in helping to get to where he is now in his development.
“Really, it’s just learning from Crief [Moncrief] a lot and the rest of the guys,” Johnson said Friday. “Just trying to pick their brains and whatnot because they’ve played more than me. So, I’m just trying to see what they’re seeing out of there on field and just apply that to my game.”
Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner hinted heavily on Thursday that Johnson will be starting over Moncrief starting this Sunday against the 49ers. Moncrief lost his starting job to the rookie due to him having five drops in the team’s first two games.
With Moncrief now a backup, it will be interesting to see if he winds up on the teams inactive list on Sunday. The Steelers might decide to not dress all six wide receivers on Sunday and if that’s ultimately the case, Moncrief figures to be the odd man out.
Assuming that Johnson will be the starting X receiver on Sunday, he figures to be on the field extensively along with fellow young wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington. Fellow Steelers wide receivers Ryan Switzer and Johnny Holton are also both expected to dress and play Sunday as backups.
In addition to starting Sunday art wide receiver, Johnson might even be asked to return punts and kickoffs against the 49ers as well. This past Sunday, Johnson relived Switzer as the team’s punt returner.
“Somebody who knows the plays, who’s just a young guy just developing,” Smith-Schuster said of Johnson on Friday when asked to recap the rookie’s development to date. “He’s showing his skill set and what he can do kind of like last game. You kind of saw what he can do in the preseason. This game will be his first start so it’ll be super exciting to see what he puts on film.”