As it turns out, perhaps Diontae Johnson isn’t such a bad player after all. Following a rough stretch of games in which he dropped at least two passes in three consecutive weeks, which even got him benched, the second-year wide receiver has produced now two weeks in a row for the Pittsburgh Steelers and finding the end zone.
Though it came in a loss against the Cincinnati Bengals, the former Toledo standout caught eight passes last week for 59 yards and a touchdown. Today. Against the Indianapolis Colts, he helped ignite an improbable comeback with his 39-yard touchdown grab, which is his seventh of the season.
In all, he caught eight passes in the game for 75 yards and a touchdown. He now has 85 receptions for 828 yards and seven touchdowns, leading the team in yardage, second in receptions, and third in receiving touchdowns.
“We were kind of doing some of the no-huddle stuff, and they were trying to take away Diontae on a bunch of slants”, Roethlisberger said about the long touchdown play. “We had a look, and I was talking on the sideline to Coach Randy [Fichtner], Matt Canada, [Joshua] Dobbs, Mason [Rudolph], some of those guys, saying, ‘I think this is a play we should go to’”.
“Of course, they came out in the coverage that we weren’t expecting” on the play, he said with a laugh, “but I figured Diontae was gonna be one-on-one, so let’s go over the top, and he made the play. I just had to put enough air on it, and he ran under it and made a spectacular catch—and showed why MAC football is so special”.
Roethlisberger, of course, is also an alumnus of a MAC school, in his case Miami of Ohio, which is in the same conference as Toledo, and they have other players of note from MAC schools on the roster, such as Robert Spillane, who should hopefully be returning from the Reserve/Injured List soon.
“We had a shot for it, [but] we weren’t quite on the same page”, Roethlisberger said of running that play in the first half. “We were just a little bit off, and it was something we talked about at halftime. I actually got on the board and drew it up and showed them what I was wanting him to do”.
“That’s what I was most proud of in him and the rest of the guys, is his touchdown in the second half was a very similar play”, he said, as a play in the first half. “Very similar coverage, and he did exactly what we talked about. I just can’t say enough about the adjustment that he made and the play that he made in bouncing back and being spectacular on that play for me”.
That play helped spark a three-score comeback, the offense scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half after the Indianapolis Colts took a 24-7 lead late in the third quarter. They got into the end zone three times in a span of under 11 minutes of game time beginning with that play.