Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: WR Diontae Johnson
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Even with a medium/high-difficulty drop in the end zone, Diontae Johnson had a very good game for the Steelers against the Ravens, finishing with his third 100-yard game of the season, and just his second game with multiple receiving touchdowns.
If there were any question as to who was the Steelers’ number one receiver entering the 2021 season, I would like to think that Diontae Johnson has answered them by now. Following another strong performance, the third-year veteran has 76 catches on the year for 914 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
He is already closing in on the numbers he put up a year ago, when he caught 88 passes for 923 yards and seven touchdowns. He is also averaging over 12 yards per reception, an increase showing his ability to play vertically despite being a high-volume target.
Johnson has already been targeted 120 times in the passing game this season, seeing double-digit targets for four consecutive weeks. He has caught at least seven passes for more than 80 yards in each, totaling 31 catches for 384 yards during that run, with three touchdowns.
Johnson did have a ‘drop’, which is fair to call a drop, during yesterday’s game, but it certainly wasn’t an easy play, an over-the-shoulder shot to the end zone that saw a defender come in late. But he failed to secure it before the defender was even there.
Yet he merely came back and had a great second half, including two fourth-quarter touchdowns. His second, five-yard touchdown came on a beautiful route that included change of direction not too many players could manage.
Johnson is going to be a real asset for whoever the Steelers’ next quarterback is, but for at least the next five games, he’s going to remain a crutch for Ben Roethlisberger, who has shown about as much trust in him as he has with any other player not named Hines, Heath, or Antonio. And that was even through a rash of drops last year.