Heading into the Week 15 matchup against the Carolina Panthers, much of the discussion regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers was the curious comments from standout wide receiver Diontae Johnson stating he wanted third-string quarterback Mason Rudolph to start for the black and gold.
Those comments certainly raised eyebrows especially after Johnson and second-string quarterback Mitch Trubisky previously got into it in the locker room during halftime of the Week 4 game at Acrisure Stadium against the New York Jets, and then weren’t on the same page often when Trubisky got into games in recent weeks.
Sunday was a different story though as Trubisky and Johnson were on the same page throughout the matchup — a 24-16 win for the Steelers — as Johnson turned in a 10-catch, 98-yard performance, closing the game out in style with a strong second half, including two key catches on the final drive of the game before a 50-yard field goal from kicker Chris Boswell sealed the win.
Following the win over the Panthers in which Trubisky was rather good, completing 17-of-22 passes for 179 yards and a quarterback rating of 100.4, the veteran signal caller credited Johnson for his big performance, stating that the fourth-year receiver was locked in on the gameplan all week long and was getting open throughout the day, making for easy completions.
“It was awesome. He just was locked in all week. We had a great game plan and he was getting open for me all day,” Trubisky stated to reporters after the win, according to video via the Steelers official YouTube page. “I just trust him to get open. I trust in his ability and we had great timing, and he was winning on his routes. So, I think if you just continue to trust in the offense and this plan, I’m gonna go to him and get open.
“He did a great job on third down and getting open all day for me. Anybody can have a day like that,” Trubisky added. “It just depends what the defense is taking away, who they’re putting on him and he did a great job believing in the plan and making plays when he was open, so it was good.”
On a day in which the Steelers imposed their will on the Panthers in the trenches, they needed somebody to step up in the passing game to provide some balance. That’s where Johnson came in.
The standout receiver caught all 10 targets on the day and was terrific after the catch, forcing a number of defenders to miss in space to pick up additional yardage. Though he did take a bad personal foul penalty after an impressive third-down effort forcing three defenders to miss, Johnson was great throughout the day and stepped up when the Steelers needed him the most.
Hopefully he can continue to build off of the great day and finish a rather frustrating 2022 season strong in the final three matchups of the year.