Diontae Johnson put up 72 yards of offense and scored a deep-pass touchdown, so you can’t exactly say that it was a slow day at the office on Sunday for the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver. He did, however, catch just two passes, in fact was only targeted twice, despite playing 60 snaps, over 90 percent of their offensive share on the day.
Johnson has become quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target, and saw at least 10 targets in each of his first three games of the season. He hadn’t seen nearly that sparse a share in a game in which both of them played since week eight last season, when he was targeted just three times. Did the Denver Broncos intentionally try to shut him out?
“I don’t want to say they took away the connection in that game. I was open a couple times. You know you’re not gonna get the ball every time, but I was open if you look at the film”, he told Missi Matthews in an interview for the team’s website. “The film don’t lie. There was times I could’ve gotten the ball, but I’ve got other teammates that are out there making plays, getting open, helping us win. That’s all I care about at the end of the day. Whoever’s hot that day, that’s who’s gonna get the ball, and Chase was hot”.
That would be Chase Claypool, who caught five passes during the game for 130 yards and a touchdown. Roethlisberger only attempted 25 passes in the game, his fewest attempts in a game since week 10 against Carolina in 2018. That was a blowout win on a Thursday night game during which they tried to take the air out of the ball, yet he still threw five touchdowns for over 300 yards.
Sunday’s game wasn’t quite like that, but it was the best running game that Roethlisberger had seen in about a year. Only two players on offense had even seen more than two targets during the game. Claypyool was targeted six times, Najee Harris five times. Roethlisberger targeted 11 different players on his 25 attempts, so it’s not a shock that there weren’t many high-volume targets, beyond Claypool.
“I can’t do nothing but congratulate him and root him on every snap”, Johnson said of the production that Claypool has had. The second-year receiver leads the team in receiving yards, though Johnson has three receiving touchdowns. “If the ball comes my way, I’m gonna make my play, do what I do”.
For Johnson’s part, he still has 25 receptions on the season in four games, for 305 yards and the aforementioned three scores. He’s on pace for a 100-catch, 1,220-yard, 12-touchdown season if he continues this pace over the final 12 games.