It’s hard to take away any positives when the Steelers are in the slide they are currently in. With that, Diontae Johnson’s continued evolution is just that.
The wideout was expected to take a third-year step, as that progression became especially important after the season-ending injury to JuJu Smith-Schuster. He continues his maturation process as the Steelers’ primary target. Ben Roethlisberger has certainly noticed Johnson’s evolution this season.
“He’s crazy talented,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday in a press conference via the team’s website. “The things he can do to get open, his quickness, his speed, his short area bursts and things like that.”
Johnson has eclipsed at least 70 yards in all but one game since Week 2. Despite two losses and a tie in the past three weeks, it’s been Johnson’s best stretch of his career, arguably. In the three games, he’s accumulated 23 catches, 279 yards, and a highlight-reel touchdown.
Roethlisberger has been pleased with the wideout’s response to adversity.
“Even last week, I told him how proud I was of him for not quitting [against the Bengals]. Those are things that show growth and maturity for a young guy that is doing some great things for us.”
Johnson had nine catches for 95 yards in the blowout loss to the Bengals. Five of those nine catches and 48 of the 95 yards came in the fourth quarter. The Steelers were down by over 30 points at that point in the game. The lack of quitting on Sunday is something perhaps his teammates can learn from.
Most importantly, Johnson has put in the work to address his past issues with dropping the ball. In 109 targets, he has just one drop on the season. Originally his biggest weakness, Johnson’s hands have improved more than any other phase of his game.
Johnson’s ascension to being an NFL star, averaging 81 yards per game, perhaps makes the Steelers’ offseason decision on Smith-Schuster a bit more bearable. Despite the ugly team results, it’s time people begin recognizing Diontae Johnson’s greatness more.