There is a false perception that has become dominant over the years of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback. It is the one of the oaf, the big, talented guy who just shows up to play on Sundays, and seemingly does little else in between. He’s not passionate. He’s not dedicated. He doesn’t want to do work. He’s not helpful. He’s ‘not like the other veteran quarterbacks’, they say.
Because they don’t listen to the people that he actually works with. Based on his conversation with Teresa Varley for the team’s website, third-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson certainly gets an awful lot out of his working relationship with the 18th-year veteran, who will be turning 39 years old later this month.
“I take advantage of every second. I am taking advantage of everything with him, soaking up as much information as I can from him and applying it to my game”, he told Varley. “He is always helping me. If he wants me to do a certain thing on a route, he will give me some pointers”.
“I am all ears when it comes to him talking to me about stuff. He will talk to me about film, what he likes, and he doesn’t like, how hard I work and this and that”, Johnson continued. “Stuff like that you don’t forget. It makes you work harder. Our conversations are valuable. I am always willing to listen to somebody that is older than me, that has information that can help my game get better. Ben is in a situation to do that”.
All of this translated into Johnson becoming arguably Roethlisberger’s favorite target. If you go by targets, that’s literally true. Even though he missed one entire game and the majority of a couple of others, and was benched for a half as well, he still finished the season with 144 targets, or 16 more than JuJu Smith-Schuster, who didn’t miss any time.
Of course it’s good that these conversations are happening between the two, because there is still work to be done, though admittedly some of that is internal for Johnson, particularly when it comes to his drop issues, something that he also talked about with Varley on the team’s site.
Still, he finished the year with 88 receptions for 923 yards, leading the team, and seven touchdowns. There is no reason to think that he isn’t capable of putting up a 100-1000-10 season someday—as long as he has a quarterback willing to throw it to him that often, and with enough skill to produce those numbers.