While Diontae Johnson garners mixed reactions from many Pittsburgh Steelers fans, he certainly has the respect of NFL players. Today, Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay named Johnson one of the top five wide receivers he went up against this past season.
Despite the Eagles blowing the Steelers out 35-13 in the Week Eight matchup, Slay was clearly moved by Johnson’s performance calling him a “quiet assassin.”
“That boy is a dog,” Slay said on his podcast. “He’s a real quiet assassin. He reminds me a lot like AB [Antonio Brown], man a great vertical guy.”
In their matchup, Johnson recorded five catches for 35 yards with his longest reception being 14 yards. While it certainly wasn’t a great game statistically, it wasn’t for many players on Pittsburgh’s offense as at that point in the season they were still trying to find their identity.
What makes Johnson such a difficult matchup is his ability to get open. One of, if not the best, route runners in the NFL, Johnson is almost always open. NFL Next Gen Stats has him down as having 2.5 yards of separation at the time of catch which is best on the Steelers.
Johnson is Pittsburgh’s WR1 and despite not scoring a touchdown put up productive numbers in a bad offense. He finished the year with 86 catches for 882 yards at a 10.3 yards per catch clip.
While Johnson has struggled with drops throughout his career it isn’t an issue that limits his talent. He still makes big plays and gets open. There is a reason Slay, who is one of the best cornerbacks in the league, ranks Johnson so highly.
Slay also compared Johnson to former Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. Brown one of the greatest wide receivers of all time, had the ability to get open on every play, just like Johnson. Unsurprisingly, two of Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite targets were Brown and Johnson.
When Johnson was drafted in 2019, he was tasked with replacing what Brown brought the offense. While Johnson certainly does not have the stats or overall ability that Brown had, he fills his role as the X receiver very well and is almost always open. It makes the quarterback’s life so much easier when they have a wide receiver they can rely on being open every play.
Going into next year, Johnson is going to be a huge factor on helping the Steelers offense take a leap forward. While quarterback Kenny Pickett needs to take a second year leap, having a receiver like Johnson on the field is going to be a big help.