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2021 South Side Questions: How Is Diontae Johnson’s Knee?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.

They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom look to be in a starting role (or complementary role in Freiermuth’s case) for the season opener.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. They have a 53-man roster, though it will always change to some degree. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: How is Diontae Johnson’s knee?

I don’t know about you, but for me, the biggest question I have today is this one. The third-year wide receiver suffered a knee injury on literally the final play of the game, and he had to be helped off the field when all was said and done. Head coach Mike Tomlin did not provide an update about the severity of the injury.

Johnson is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target, and while there remain kinks in their connection, as we saw for example on his intercepted pass, they have the potential to be a highly productive duo.

So what is the significance of Diontae Johnson’s banged-up knee? First and foremost, will it cause him to miss any time? Secondly, whether it causes him to miss time or not, will it become a lingering issue that affects his ability to create space, put nuance in his routes, and evade defenders with the ball in his hands?

All of those qualities are essential to Johnson’s game and make him such a desirable target, so if he is going to be hindered by the lingering effects of a knee injury, then that is a major concern. JuJu Smith-Schuster dealt with a knee injury in late 2019, and there have been suggestions that it continued to affect him last year.

This is, of course, the problem with having very limited information. it’s entirely possible that he just banged his knee and that he’ll be perfectly fine the next time he steps onto the field in a week. But until we know more, it leaves open the possibility of something more concerning.

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