Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt was named the team’s MVP of the 2019 season on Thursday following a team vote and that means on Friday we should learn which players have won the annual Joe Greene Great Performance and Chief Awards for 2019.
The Joe Greene Great Performance Award is presented annually to a Steelers rookie by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America and this year’s candidates to win it are inside linebacker Devin Bush and wide receiver Diontae Johnson.
Bush, the Steelers first-round draft pick in 2019, enters the final week of the 2019 regular season with an impressive rookie season resume. Bush not only currently leads the Steelers in assisted tackles (36) and fumble recoveries (4), he also ranks second on the team in solo tackles (61) and total tackles (97). He also ranks tied for third on the team in interceptions (2) and fourth in tackles for loss (8).
Bush enters Week 17 as the leader of all NFL rookies in total tackles and fumble recoveries, and also ranks second in assisted tackles, third in solo tackles, tied for third in interceptions and fourth in tackles for loss. His 97 total tackles are also the most by a Steelers rookie in franchise history.
Johnson, the Steelers first of two third-round draft picks in 2019, has also had a very impressive rookie season that should currently have him in a close battle with Bush to win the annual Joe Greene Great Performance Award.
Entering the final week of the 2019 regular season, Johnson leads the Steelers in receptions with 55 and is second on the team in receiving yards with 626. He also leads the team in touchdown receptions entering the regular season finale with five.
With seven or more receptions in the Steelers Sunday regular season finale against the Baltimore Ravens, Johnson would set a new franchise single-season rookie record in that statistic. The record currently belongs to former wide receiver Troy Edwards, who caught 61 passes in his 1999 rookie season. Johnson is also on course to become the first Steelers rookie to lead the team in receptions since Ron Shanklin and Dave Smith both accomplished the feat in 1970 with 30 receptions each.
Johnson, a Toledo product, also enters Week 17 in second place in overall rookie player receptions behind Washington Redskins wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who has caught 58 passes for 919 yards and seven touchdowns through 16 weeks.
In addition to performing well as a wide receiver in 2019, Johnson has also had a few shining moments as a punt returner for the Steelers as a rookie. He enters Week 17 having returned 18 punts for 224 yards and a touchdown.
In the Steelers Week 14 win against the Arizona Cardinals, Johnson returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown and it was the second-longest punt return in franchise history. In doing so, Johnson also became the first Steelers rookie with a punt return for a touchdown and touchdown reception in the same game since wide receive Louis Lipps last accomplished the feat against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 19, 1984.
As you can clearly see, the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America have a tough choice to make this year. Could we see co-winners for the first time in the history of The Joe Greene Great Performance Award? It’s certainly possible.
Who do you think should win the award this this year?