Ben Roethlisberger called a players-only meeting in an effort to clue the young guys in on what to expect in the postseason. But it’s still hard for a rookie or second-year player to be ready for a playoff run. Diontae Johnson is taking every chance to learn from the guys who have been there before. Talking to reporters yesterday, he told reporters he’s paying attention to how the veterans prepare themselves, specifically QB Ben Roethlisberger and OC Maurkice Pouncey.
“[Ben and Pouncey’s words] are going to impact us a lot,” Johnson said Monday. “Like I said, I’ve never played in the playoffs before. And then those guys have been in the league for a long time now and they have the experience. So I’m trying to see how they go about this week and how they prepare this week for the playoffs. And I try to put that into my game so I can be ready to just like them.”
Making his first playoff appearance Sunday night, Johnson is in the same boat as roughly half the players on the roster. The Steelers return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017, meaning none of their rookies and sophomores have been to the postseason. The receiver room in particular is young. Combined, they’ve played in just one game. That was JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2017, who caught three passes for five yards and a touchdown in their Divisional loss to Jacksonville. None of the others – Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud, or Johnson – have been in the playoffs before.
So it’s logical to look towards the elder statesmen on the team. Roethlisberger has played in a whopping 21 playoff games, the equivalent of nearly 1.5 regular seasons. And he’s the only player on the roster with a Super Bowl ring. Following his approach to the week is a wise move. The old adage is there’s preseason intensity, regular season intensity, playoff intensity, and Super Bowl intensity. Sunday begins a new chapter to the season.
Pittsburgh’s opponent is in a similar situation. There’s only a handful of Browns who have been in the playoffs before. Backup QB Case Keenum started two games for the Minnesota Vikings in 2017 while LB Malcolm Smith was MVP of Super Bowl 48. WR Jarvis Landry played against the Steelers in a 2017 Wild Card loss, too. But overall, their playoff experience is short, evening the playoff field this weekend.