Ask Steelers’ fans and you’ll get a lot of excitement around Diontae Johnson heading into his sophomore year.
Ask the national media and you’ll get crickets.
Time and time again this offseason, Johnson has seemingly been the forgotten man in national media circles.
Earlier in June, FOX Sports tweeted out a poll of what second-year receiver would have the best season. Their options? DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel, and Hollywood Brown.
Which WR will have the best 2nd season in the NFL? pic.twitter.com/NMbl0vwJKT
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) June 3, 2020
Guess who was missing? Diontae Johnson.
Pro Football Focus did the same yesterday. Similar question, same options.
Which class of 2019 WR would you pick to build an offense around? pic.twitter.com/5hwhVc6ne5
— PFF (@PFF) June 13, 2020
Which is especially strange because few websites have been as high on Diontae Johnson as Pro Football Focus. But he’s curiously left off the list.
Ditto with ESPN back in March.
Balled out in year one. Who takes the leap in year two? 👐 pic.twitter.com/14nvcleb3K
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 27, 2020
All Johnson did was lead all rookies with 59 receptions in 2019, becoming the first Steeler to stake that claim since Sam Boyd in 1939. He also finished 6th in yards and 7th in touchdowns all while having easily the worst quarterback play of anyone included on that list, catching balls from Devlin Hodges and Mason Rudolph while others worked with the likes of Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson (to be fair, McLaurin’s situation wasn’t great either). Johnson was also named an All-Pro punt returner, largely for his 85 yard touchdown against the Cardinals. Metrically, he tied Samuel for most missed tackles forced by any receiver with 18.
That’s not to take away from the five conventionally included in these questions. Brown had a fantastic season, I’ve been a huge fan of Samuel since his days at South Carolina, and Scary Terry proved a lot of people wrong as a rookie. But Johnson deserves to be included right there with them, working with Ben Roethlisberger for practically the first time and hopefully healthy after dealing with nagging injuries as a rookie.
If Johnson lives up to expectations like we think he will, prominent national media won’t be able to ignore him for much longer.