Pro Football Focus isn’t always the biggest fan of the decisions that the Pittsburgh Steelers make. One call that they were on more than most, however, in a positive way, was the third-round selection of Diontae Johnson last year. They were always behind him, and even predicted that he would be their number two target. Of course, he led the team in receptions.
Now, they are predicting him as one of the biggest second-year breakout candidates, discussing him both in an article and a video. Sam Monson writes of the second-year wide receiver:
Diontae Johnson had 680 receiving yards and five touchdowns as a third-round rookie last year, so you could make the case that he’s already broken out. But when you consider what the quarterback situation was like in Pittsburgh with no Ben Roethlisberger, you will soon appreciate how much more there is to come. Johnson is an extremely slick route-runner and was regularly open only to see the ball miss him completely. He snagged 91% of the catchable targets thrown his way and broke 18 tackles after the catch, second among all rookies. Mason Rudolph (53.0) and Devlin “Duck” Hodges (45.8) each posted lowly PFF grades, so if Johnson gets a full season of quality passing play from a healthy Roethlisberger, we could see him evolve into one of the better receivers in the game.
His 59 receptions was the most by any rookie in the NFL a year ago, and it came on 92 targets, the most for the team. He did drop six passes, but that completion percentage could have been much higher had there been a better level of performance from under center.
Steve Palazzolo also discussed the Toledo product in a video about breakout candidates, reminding of how the site viewed him prior to the draft a year ago, even making a comparison to Antonio Brown when he was coming out of school.
Coming out of the draft, he was good at the things that are most important that wide receivers do, which is get open. He gets off the press, he’s shifty in and out of his cuts. How many more targets? Seven more open targets than any other rookie wide receiver last year. The guy gets open, and he’s got Big Ben coming back from injury. We thought he reminded us a little bit of Antonio Brown before the draft last year, and then heh goes to the Steelers? He’s a classic 1000-yard receiver coming up. It’s all Diontae Johnson in Year Two.
2nd-year breakout candidate: Eagles LB T.J. Edwards pic.twitter.com/KSaxXytji6
— PFF (@PFF) May 9, 2020
I don’t think there will be much disagreement from Steelers fans. If Ben Roethlisberger is really up and running and the loss of Brown really didn’t completely torpedo everything they’re trying to do on offense, it wouldn’t be the least bit of a surprise if they produce another pair of 1000-yard receivers in Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster—unless they simply spread the ball around too much for any two players to have that kind of opportunity.