Undoubtedly, Devin Bush and Diontae Johnson had impressive rookie campaigns for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They took slightly different paths to get there. Bush was a Day one contributor, even if not always technically a starter, with sky high expectations he somehow managed to meet. Johnson was a Day Two pick but expected to take a backseat for a chunk of the year. Then Donte Moncrief fell apart and Johnson was asked to step in, becoming one of only a handful of players who could make this offense, in moments, look competent.
By year’s end, Johnson had 59 receptions to lead all rookies, the first Steeler to do that in 80 years. And Bush finished with 109 tackles. That also led all rookies.
On today’s Terrible Podcast, a listener asked the last time a team had league leaders in both categories, receptions and tackles. We have an answer.
Using Pro Football Reference, which reliably tacks tackles dating back to 1981, it’s only the second time the same team has had the leader in receptions and tackles. Here’s the list.
WR Kevin Johnson/LB Wali Rainer (Cleveland – 1999)
WR Diontae Johnson/LB Devin Bush (Pittsburgh – 2019)
In 1999, Johnson finished with 66 receptions while Rainer led the way with 137 combined tackles. So there’s apparently two common threads teams need. Draft a WR with the last name “Johnson” and have Keith Butler as your LBs coach. Butler served in that role with the Browns in 1999 while pulling double-duty at DC/LBs coach with Pittsburgh this season.
Just hope Pittsburgh has better careers than what Cleveland ended up with. Johnson had a decent NFL career, eclipsing the 1000 yard mark in 2001 but his career went downhill as soon as his rookie contract was up. Rainer started three seasons with the Browns, one more in Jacksonville, before becoming a backup in Detroit for a couple seasons.
There’s every reason to believe Diontae Johnson and Bush have bright futures in black and gold. Johnson has the skillset required to play the “X” receiver spot and adding desperately needed splash on special teams. Bush should step into a full-time role come 2020 with the athleticism required to play linebacker in today’s NFL.