The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. It ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?
These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.
Question: Does Diontae Johnson have his drops under control this year?
In terms of the receiving corps, is there a bigger question than this? Diontae Johnson is pound for pound probably the most talented wide receiver that the Steelers have. Ben Roethlisberger clearly has a great affinity for throwing him the ball. Why wouldn’t he? He gets open—but his struggles to bring the ball in once he’s open dogged him, particularly last season.
According to Pro Football Reference, he dropped nine percent of the catchable balls he saw last year. Pro Football Focus is far less conservative and has him at 13.7 percent, but both of them have him at double-digit drops on the year.
It got to the point where head coach Mike Tomlin benched him for most of a half last year. When he came back, he redeemed himself a bit, catching 19 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns over the final three weeks. He then caught 11 passes for 117 yards in the postseason.
Johnson talked about how a lot of the issue was mental, and that he allowed it to build up in his mind, but that he had learned to adopt a next-play mentality. Both he and his coaches seem to believe that he has it under control, but that’s something that will be left for time and experience to determine.