By season’s end, the Pittsburgh Steelers finished the year with three different players catching 60-plus passes for 800-plus yards and seven-plus touchdowns. All in all, the top end of the production spectrum was pretty promising, especially considering it was performed primarily by a group of young wide receivers.
One of them was Diontae Johnson, the second-year man out of Toledo, who finished the 2020 season leading the Steelers in receiving yards with 923. He caught 88 passes, seven of which found the end zone, with all of those figures representing career-highs.
He also had some significant career-lows along the way, sinking to the point of his getting benched for the majority of the first half of a game a few weeks ago, which came amid a stretch of his dropping a series of passes. But he was able to finish the year strong, catching three passes for 96 yards in the finale as they head into the postseason.
“I feel like those three catches I had the whole game helped us out tremendously. That one 40-some-yard catch I had down the field was able to get us a field goal out of that”, Johnson told reporters earlier today. “Then I had a first down for 10 yards that helped us get field position and I think we wound up scoring. The last deep ball I had, that gave us momentum to give us a chance to tie the game back up, but we didn’t execute on the last play”.
“Those three plays, I felt like they helped keep us in the game”, he added. “That just gave me confidence and shows that it helps to have me playing good out there. I felt like myself again, and I just want to continue to show the world that that’s what I’m capable of each Sunday”.
If the Steelers intend to go anywhere in the postseason, then they are going to need Johnson to feel like himself, if his real self is the one who had been balling in recent weeks. In his final three games of the season since his partial benching, he has caught 19 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns.
With JuJu Smith-Schuster a pending free agent, he figures to be the focal point of the Steelers’ offense next season, along with rookie Chase Claypool. Johnson led the team with 144 targets this season, which was also the eighth-most in the NFL. Obviously, he needs to work on his drops—without them, he would have had a 100-catch season despite the time missed due to injuries and his benching.