Steelers News

Diontae Johnson Wants To Work On Hands, Route-Running; ‘I Can Work On My Game All Around’

With no live OTAs to talk about, write about, and excessively analyze, the media—including the lowly bloggers—has had to be content just with the occasional Zoom conference call for a player or coach here and there to sustain themselves for content during the age of Covid-19.

For the moment, it appears unlikely that there will be any on-field work before training camp. And even if players get the go-ahead to report to team facilities before then, the information that we would be receiving probably wouldn’t change a whole lot, if we’re being honest.

The latest player to have to sit through the media rounds and waiting for reporters to figure out how to unmute themselves in time before their turn is passed over was second-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson, whom the Pittsburgh Steelers made the 66th-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

He sat in for more than 11 minutes to answer questions, and we have already covered a lot from that session. But one thing that we always want to hear from players, especially younger players, is their own self-evaluation, which often takes the form of finding out what aspects of their game they’re focusing on that offseason. Johnson was asked that, and this was his answer:

I’m gonna work on catching the ball, having stronger hands. I’m gonna work on getting my routes better, more tuned-up and whatnot. Just everything. I’ve got plenty of stuff to work on, so I don’t want to just pick those two. I can work on my game all around.

While Johnson may already be the best route-runner on the team, it is undeniable that he could use some work on his hands. Depending on what source you use, his drop rate could vary a lot. Pro Football Focus somehow had him at only three drops. Pro Football Reference had him at six. I also had him at six, plus another that I flagged as a possible drop or a pass that he could have caught. That was the most on the team

The fact is that he has some ball security issues, because he also lost control of the ball, either after receptions or as a punt returner, a few more times. Another issue that he has had going back to college has been keeping his feet.

Despite these issues, he is coming off of a very promising rookie season, catching 49 passes for 680 yards and five touchdowns, and doing so while playing through a groin injury and with backup quarterbacks who had never thrown an NFL pass before.

And the fact that  Johnson has this attitude toward improvement, with no ego about what he can do to get better, makes me feel that much more confident about his ability to become a very good wide receiver for the Steelers in 2020.

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