Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson had a great rookie season as the third-round selection out of Toledo registered 59 receptions for 680 yards and five touchdowns in addition to another score via a punt return. On the heels of Johnson leading all rookies in receptions in 2019, he revealed recently to Missi Matthews of steelers.com what his goals for the 2020 season are.
“Oh, Pro Bowl receiver,” Johnson told Matthews. “That’s my number one. I want to go to the Pro Bowl, be one of the top receivers in the NFL next year. That’s something that I’m going to take pride in this offseason and I’m working my tail off to get it.”
Johnson offseason training might not get started as early as it he would like it to as he reportedly underwent sports hernia surgery during the first week of February. Several medical websites indicate the normal recovery time from that type of surgery is 4-6 weeks, so Johnson should be close to being able to resume his offseason training without limitations in the very near future.
So, what kind of things is Johnson looking forward to working on this offseason?
“Really, just like my ball-skills and trying to gain a little more weight,” Johnson told Matthews. “Because Coach Ray [Sherman] said I need to put on a little more pounds. But, I mean, I’m not going to get too much bigger. So, just work on my route running because that can always be better.”
Ray Sherman took over as the Steelers interim wide receivers coach last year during training camp after the sudden passing of Darryl Drake. Sherman, however, was recently replaced by Ike Hilliard, who will now be the Steelers new wide receivers coach after spending the last several seasons in that same role with the Washington Redskins.
It’s now up to Hilliard now to make sure that Johnson takes that next jump in his second season and the young wide receiver will need to do his part to make sure that happens as well. Johnson told Matthews about the challenges he faced last season as a rookie that helped him develop more quickly once he was thrusts into a lot more playing time earlier than many expected.
“Obviously, I’m going to be a starter now so I’ve gotta study film more, take notes, because in college I really didn’t do that much,” Johnson said. “But now it’s, like, it’s serious so I’ve got to do those things. And take care of my body more, make sure I I’m eating right stuff. That played a big part in my success on the field as well.”
Johnson’s 2020 season also figures to include him catching a lot of passes from starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, which is something he only managed to do three times as a rookie. In fact, Johnson only played 24 offensive snaps with Roethlisberger in the first six quarters of the 2019 before the starting quarterback was lost for the remainder of the year to an elbow injury.
As for Johnson hoping to be a Pro Bowl wide receiver in 2020, that goal is fine as long as his ultimate goal is not to be able to play in the annual NFL all-star game because of him needing to prepare to play in the Super Bowl LV instead.