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‘I Want To Be All In With My Guys’: Diontae Johnson Taking Team-First Approach Amid Frustrations

The statistical decline of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson’s numbers this year has been somewhat remarkable. While I understand how changing quarterbacks can affect these things, going from 107-1161-8 to a pace of 87-775-0 is a stark contrast.

And things haven’t exactly been getting better. He has only been targeted five times apiece in the past two games when he typically receives twice that or more. He’s caught eight of those 10 pass attempts, but outside of one deep target, it’s been largely low-impact throws, as has been the story of the season.

Johnson concedes that it is a source of frustration, as it would be for any wide receiver, speaking to reporters yesterday via the team’s website. But he’s striving to take the responsible and team-first approach through it even though it’s not always easy.

“Just trying to get open and trying to help my team any way I can, not complain about it”, he said when he was asked about his approach through these issues, via the team’s website. “That’s the big thing, the toughest part, just not complaining about it when you’re continually winning. But it’s football. I’m gonna respond in the right way and just keep playing”.

A former third-round pick out of Toledo, Johnson came into the Steelers organization partially billed as the heir apparent to Antonio Brown, whose trade to the Raiders acquired the draft pick Pittsburgh used to draft the fourth-year veteran.

Ben Roethlisberger was injured for nearly all of his rookie season, but it didn’t take long after that to establish himself as the quarterback’s favorite target. He was also a friendly option for Mitch Trubisky early on, but his target share has plummeted with Kenny Pickett in the lineup, who has chalked it up to teams scheming him away. But there’s only so much Johnson can do about it.

“Just be myself and try not to press, because the more you do that, you’re not really playing for the team, it’s more for yourself”, he said. “I don’t want to go down that road. I want to be all in with my guys, and if stuff’s not going my way, continue to show that I’m continuously getting open”.

That he does get open is a matter of fact, not opinion. He is almost the most consistently ‘open’ players in the NFL, though that is not necessarily a qualitative judgement or an accurate reflection of how frequently Pickett should reasonably be throwing to him.

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