For much of the past two seasons, the Steelers’ star wide receiver, Pro Bowler Diontae Johnson, has faced much criticism from fans and media alike regarding his hands, and his drop rate, which he cut way down last season. However, it again reared it’s ugly head down the stretch, in crucial situations. After leading the entire NFL in dropped passes during the 2020 season with 13, DJ clearly worked to clean up the sore spot last offseason, and only dropped five.
However, in the team’s 41-21 blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round, his issues surfaced again, as he dropped two catchable balls whenever the game was still somewhat within reason. The first was a surefire first down in the first quarter with the game at 0-0. The econd drop happened on a 3rd and 2 with halftime looming and the score still knotted at 7-7. The team ended up punting after the drop, and the floodgates opened all over Pittsburgh’s defense, and that was that.
In an earlier Tweet by Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writer Chris Adamski from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, DJ was asked about the issue that’s been plaguing him for much of the past two seasons, and Johnson was very blunt in his reply.
Johnson told Adamski:
“It’s gonna happen, the best of the best gonna drop it. It’s how you respond and get ready for the next one. That’s my mentality every time I caught and wind up dropping balls.”
Using that next play methodology will be key for him not only moving forward as he pursues a lucrative extension, but as he looks to help become a leader for a Steelers’ offense undergoing a changing of the guard at the QB position, as Ben Roethlisberger hung up the cleats for good following the playoff loss.
As a favorite target of Roethlisberger, DJ racked up an eye-popping 169 targets last season, and 144 the year prior. When asked if he expects to continue to see such a high-target volume, even with some added draft pick talents like George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, Johnson was not shy at all about his answer.
“Of course, I feel like I’ve established myself so far and I’m gonna continue to establish myself even more. That’s all I can do is just keep getting better.”