A quarterback connection with their wide receiver is really important. For them to connect they need to know what each other is seeing. But, this can be hard sometimes for a rookie quarterback when the game is moving so fast in their first year. Luckily for Kenny Pickett, he had his WR1 Diontae Johnson take him under his wing and help him adjust to the NFL.
Pickett joined Cam Heyward on his podcast Not Just Football With Cam Heyward and praised Johnson or helping him get settled into the NFL.
“My relationship grew with Diontae,” Pickett said. “He was talking to me a lot early on, just kind of saying how the game’s going to slow down for me and how his rookie year went and how the transition is from college to pro. [He’s] Always talking to me about what he sees and he’s asking me what I see, like where is he in the progression. He’s a really smart player and he knows how much time he has in certain concepts to get open.”
For a rookie quarterback, the game moves so fast sometimes it is hard to hit all your progressions. Coverages are unique and pass rushers are elite. It makes it harder sometimes for quarterbacks to target their receivers, but despite this Johnson never complained when Pickett was in. He was always supportive publicly of his quarterback and clearly behind the scenes was helping him as well. Johnson’s help certainly worked as the back half of Pickett’s season was really good as the game slowed down and he started throwing with more anticipation.
Pickett went on and praised Johnson’s ability calling it “the best ever.”
“He has the best stop-go ability I think I’ve ever seen.”
Johnson is known for his route-running ability creating some of the best separation in the league. It is almost comical how after losing Antonio Brown the Steelers drafted another elite route runner. While Johnson isn’t perfect he still is a very good receiver. Pickett clearly loves him and said that he expects a big year for Johnson next season.
While some might want the Steelers to move on from Johnson this offseason, Pickett is not one of them. As the game continues to slow for him and he improves from year one to two, the whole offense should become more productive. Johnson’s ability to get open makes it so easy for quarterbacks and I doubt Pickett would want to go into the season without that.