The Pro Bowl rosters were announced yesterday. They were pretty unexciting for Pittsburgh Steelers fans, though not wholly unexpected. Edge T.J. Watt and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward were obviously shoe-ins for yet another go-around in the game, being among the statistical league leaders at their respective positions. But this time, they have no friends joining with them.
Even though he put up a 100-tackle season this year, it’s understandable that safety Minkah Fitzpatrick did not get the same love he has the past two years, during which he was also named a first-team All-Pro. He only has two interceptions and four passes defensed this year, in addition to one forced fumble and one fumble recovery, the latter of which only happened this weekend. With the defense being as bad as it’s been, as well, it’s hard for him to get much credit.
The only other player who probably had a shot that could even be described as realistic would be wide receiver Diontae Johnson, whose on-the-season numbers are not wholly unfavorable to that of those put up by the receivers who did make it ahead of him. They line up pretty nicely with Keenan Allen’s stat line, for example:
— Steelers Depot 🎅🎄🎁 (@Steelersdepot) December 23, 2021
Johnson has put in an immense amount of work on his own this year in order to improve himself as a professional, and it has shown on the field. He has had few blemishes in his game this season, and rather, has become a go-to target. Now with 86 receptions on the season, he just cemented the first 1,000-yard season of his career, and he also has six touchdowns.
The third-year wide receiver mentioned 1,000 yards as one of his goals this year. Another was being named to the Pro Bowl. He’s not incredibly active on social media, but he did seem to comment on what he evidently feels is a snub. After the rosters came out, he tweeted just a single emoji: A sleeping face, indicating that he’s still being ‘slept on’, or overlooked.
— Diontae Johnson (@Juiceup__3) December 23, 2021
Dionte Johnson on his goals for 2021: “Make the Pro Bowl, be at least top-20 receiver in the league, top receiving yards and really just no drops. Obviously, I’m not going to be perfect, but that’s a real real big one I put up, no drops.” #Steelers https://t.co/Dn5QOtXAmE
— Steelers Depot 🎅🎄🎁 (@Steelersdepot) December 17, 2021
As noted above, the wide receivers who did make the Pro Bowl for the AFC were the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill, the Bengals’ rookie Ja’Marr Chase, the Chargers’ Allen, and the Bills’ Stefon Diggs. One wonders if he is an alternate, and if he will end up in the Pro Bowl anyway. That’s how JuJu Smith-Schuster made the Pro Bowl in 2018, as an alternate.
Of course, the overarching goal is to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. If the Steelers actually reach their goals, Johnson won’t be a Pro Bowler this year no matter what. And I’m very certain that he would be thrilled to settle for that. But they have a lot of work to do to even make it into the dance.