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Diontae Johnson Says He’s Having A ‘Great Year,’ Isn’t Worried About His Numbers

Diontae Johnson has a different perspective to what on paper looks like a tough and frustrating season. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Johnson said he’s happy with the year he’s having and is focused on wins over personal accolades.

“I’m having a great year, to me,” he said via WTAE’s Emily Giangreco. “Obviously my stats aren’t showing it but just trying to be a better leader and just not trying to play for self.”

The numbers certainly don’t look pretty. Recently the #1 target in the Steelers’ offense, he’s now fallen to third on the team in yards and has yet to find the end zone this season. Of the 32 players with at least 50 receptions this year, he’s the only one without a receiving touchdown and he’s just one of three players with at least 40 grabs and zero scores, joining TE Tyler Higbee and RB Josh Jacobs. Johnson’s still averaging a paltry 9.0 yards per reception, a steep drop from the 10.9 he averages just a year ago, and most of the time, he’s functioned as the third-option in the Steelers’ passing game behind WR George Pickens and TE Pat Freiermuth.

Pittsburgh attempted to get Johnson involved early in Monday night’s win over the Indianapolis Colts. He caught two passes on the opening drive but went quiet the rest of the night, finishing with five grabs for only 49 yards. He dropped a would-be first score of the year on a well-thrown goal line fade from Kenny Pickett and despite vowing to run forward, Johnson is pressing over the middle and losing ground. It’s happened once each of the last three weeks.

Though those clips don’t fully show it, teammates have shown frustration in those moments. That’s the word to use this year – frustrated – though to Johnson’s credit, he’s focused on and tried to become a better leader in the locker room. He’s the vet in the room, the longest tenured player and one of the oldest guys, and despite the lack of stats, is trying to put on a good face in front of the media. For him, it’s been a year of painful lessons to learn.

“End of the day, my opportunity is going to come. My play is going to come. I’m not getting the ball like I want to. But I got to keep playing. Something’s going to happen either this year or next year.”

It feels that at some point this season, Johnson will have a breakout game. Despite his struggles, he’s still a talented route runner and someone who can hit the big play. The odds of him going through the next six games without a touchdown are possible but historically low. Only four players in NFL history have ever had a season in which they’ve caught 75+ passes and not scored and three of those were running backs, most recently Leonard Fournette in 2019. But 2022 has been a year to forget. For Johnson, a clean slate and ideally, a new offensive coordinator, would do him a lot of good.

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