Diontae Johnson Finds Himself In Elite Company Over The Last Four Seasons

The debate will rage on seemingly forever when it comes to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson and if he’s a true No. 1-type receiver.

While he certainly has his inconsistencies with drops and running forward after the catch, he handles the workload of a No. 1 wide receiver from a target standpoint. According to Football Guys Fantasy Football analyst Dave Kluge, Johnson finds himself in elite territory when it comes to targets.

Since 2019, only eight pass catches — particularly wide receivers and tight ends — have registered 500 or more targets. Johnson is one of those eight, finding himself in the company of Las Vegas receiver Davante Adams, Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, Buffalo receiver Stefon Diggs, Miami receiver Tyreek Hill, Chicago receiver DJ Moore, and Los Angeles Chargers receiver Keenan Allen.

Quite the company to keep for Johnson.

As Kluge points out too, Johnson is one of the youngest in that group, just ahead of Moore, who is 26 years old. Entering his age-27 season with the second year working with Kenny Pickett and the third season under offensive coordinator Matt Canada, Johnson could be in line for a big season, especially with the emergence of wide receiver George Pickens opposite him and tight end Pat Freiermuth in the middle of the field.

While Johnson finds himself in elite company with the targets since 2019, he is coming off a down 2022 season, setting a dubious NFL record for most receptions without a touchdown in a season, hauling in 86 passes for 882 yards without finding pay dirt. Entering 2023, he’s looking to bounce back and prove once again just how special of a pass catcher he is.

Should he have a bounce back season in 2023, the offense will be better off for it, making the Steelers downright scary for defenses to try and defend. He needs to clean up the frustrating drops and the head-scratching decisions with the football in his hands and just let his great talent take over.

The drops issues are a major frustration overall and a key criticism of Johnson. Though the drops and drop percentage have dramatically declined in recent seasons from his 2020 struggles due to the hard work he’s put in to improve his hands, the criticism still remains for many in the fan base, regardless of how one tries to provide context to the drops.

As far as route running goes, few are better in the league today at creating separation than Johnson. He’s a master at it. In large part, that’s why he’s in that elite company with those huge names when it comes to the number of targets since 2019. He’s always open and is always going to see the football coming his way, especially at a No. 1 WR workload.
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