Matt Canada Unaware Of Diontae Johnson’s Impressive Metrics As A Separator: ‘I Don’t Know Anything About That’

Pittsburgh Steelers OC Matt Canada spoke with the media Thursday and discussed various points from the team’s last game against the Cincinnati Bengals which ended in a 37-30 defeat and gave some thoughts on various player on the offensive side of the football prior to the team’s Monday night matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.

When Canada was asked about WR Diontae Johnson and his lack of targets despite being one of the NFL’s most open WRs based on metrics tracking WR separation, Canada didn’t exactly know how to answer the question as to why Pittsburgh’s WR1 has become such a small part of the offense after posting a Pro Bowl season just a year ago.

“I know you guys brought that up about [Diontae] being most open and I don’t know anything about that,” Canada said to the media Thursday with audio from “That’s, you know, analytics and those things. But obviously, he’s a guy we want to get the ball to. We had some chances. There’s sometimes, you know, it is what it is. He’s important to our offense.”

So, you’re saying the man that runs the offense doesn’t know anything when it comes to analytics…

While Matt Canada shouldn’t rely specifically on metrics like Open Score and Catch Score to game plan his offense, probably paying attention to what he’s personnel’s strengths are would be wise to maximize what they do best to help them achieve success on the football field. Diontae Johnson has always been a terrific route runner, generating separation with ease against man coverage while also being able to identify the soft spots in zone coverage and give his QB an open target for easy completions.  Ben Roethlisberger leaned heavily on Johnson each of his last two seasons in the league with Johnson posting 107 receptions on 169 targets for 1,161 yards and eight TDs last season.

Thus far in 2022, Johnson’s productivity has plummeted as the fourth year WR only has 51 receptions for 456 yards and zero scores through ten games. As Dave Bryan pointed out in a recent study on Johnson’s usage this season, he has every reason to be frustrated with how Canada has deployed him, having him run routes that don’t lead to chances at picking up YAC or allow him to work vertically down the field like he has shown on numerous occasions that he can do effectively.

Instead of using Johnson to his strengths, Canada has relegated Johnson to more of a short-area target near the LOS much like former Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster was prior to leaving for the Kansas City Chiefs. While Johnson is a reliable safety valve for QB Kenny Pickett in this role, you don’t pay Johnson WR1 money to keep him parked in the garage. Until Canada can figure this out and starts utilizing Johnson to the ability that he is capable off, his disappointing, inefficient season will likely continue.

“So, getting Diontae more involved is important, but ultimately, winning’s important and scoring’s important,” Canada continued. “And Kenny’s got to read it out as it is, and we’ll continue to work to get [Diontae] the ball. We understand how talented he is.”

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