It’s no secret that Diontae Johnson ended his hold-in and returned to Pittsburgh Steelers practice today after signing a contract extension. In his press conference after practice today, Tomlin was asked about Johnson coming back, per a tweet from Jeff Hathhorn.
“You know, he’s a significant piece. He’s done a good job of staying connected throughout the process. And so, his train left the station today. I’d imagine it’s not gonna be much of a transition in terms of him getting up to speed,” Tomlin said.
While Johnson wasn’t an active participant in practice, he was still out on the sidelines and present at Saint Vincent College. Now, he’s getting up to speed with the rest of the team, which not only will benefit him but the rest of the offense, as well. Johnson is one of Pittsburgh’s most important weapons on offense, and him being featured will only serve to help out the quarterbacks, as well as his condition in the ramp-up to the regular season.
Tomlin was also asked about Johnson’s work ethic after his first play out of practice, a catch over Ahkello Witherspoon.
“He’s been working,” Tomlin said. “So, we’re not surprised by that catch.”
Despite Johnson not working with the rest of the team prior to today, he’s still been getting work in on his own. It’s not as if he’s just been sitting around and not working on his game, and him being able to get right into the action today shows that. His work ethic has always been an impressive part of his game, and he’s showing that now with his ability to jump right into full practice.
As for his part, Johnson is excited to be back out on the field.
“I’m happy with the deal I got. I’m ready to get back to work,” he said at his press conference today, via Steelers Live.
Johnson’s a competitor, and while him sitting out was likely what he believed to be in his best interest, it had to hurt not to be out there every day getting work in. Now, Johnson can compete alongside his teammates and get ready to help the Steelers be the best football team they possibly can.
Tomlin also was asked at his press conference (via Steelers.com) about what makes Johnson so talented despite not having elite size or speed.
“He’s got game. Skill relative to the position, he has at a high level. He’s got ridiculous body control.” He also said that those traits are more important than measurables.
Johnson’s body control and route-running ability were on display last year, as he showed off his footwork with a lot of the short to intermediate routes he ran. His body control along the sideline was also evident and it’s something he has always excelled with.
With Johnson back in the fold, Pittsburgh should feel a lot more comfortable with their wide receiver room for the next few years. George Pickens and Calvin Austin III have earned early praise for their work in camp, while the team is hoping Chase Claypool can bounce back from his disappointing sophomore year and be the weapon he showed he could be his rookie year.
Pair that with Johnson, who had over 100 catches for over 1,000 yards last season, and the Steelers have four reliable receivers under contract through the end of next year. Johnson’s extension is hugely important for the Steelers’ stability at a position where they experienced some turnover with the losses of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ray-Ray McCloud and James Washington this offseason.
Johnson’s ability speaks for itself, and it’s good he was able to jump right into the swing of things today and work with the rest of the team. I’m not putting too much stock into one day of camp, but Johnson’s track record speaks for itself, and he will be the WR1 for Pittsburgh. If he can build off his production from last year, the Steelers will be very happy that they decided to extend him.