The Pittsburgh Steelers‘ offense scored a season-high, 30 points despite falling to the Cincinnati Bengals, 37-30 on Sunday in a Week 11 bout. Rookie wide receiver, George Pickens was a bright spot once again and running back, Najee Harris built off of his strong performance in Week 10. The lack of production and success when targeting pass catcher, Diontae Johnson has been evident the last few weeks, however. After the loss to Cincinnati, Johnson opened up about his involvement in the offense in recent games.
Steelers Offense “Likes to Do the Same Plays Over and Over” According to Bengals’ Germaine Pratt After Week 11 Loss
When speaking with the media after the defeat, Johnson admitted that he is upset with his lack of effectiveness and participation recently. He even hinted at the fact that his peers may also feel for him in his disappointment, saying that anyone would be irritated in his situation:
“Any football player would be frustrated. But I just have to keep playing,” Johnson said.
He was asked about his seemingly absent performances of late and surprisingly didn’t put any blame on himself. He, rather, steered clear of saying anything controversial and plead the fifth when it came to the question, despite him having issues with drops once again this year:
“I can’t really, I don’t really want to speak too much on that,” Johnson said. “A lot of that stuff is out of my control. I don’t like to not be involved like that, but it is what it is and it’s the situation I am in. And I’ve got to deal with it.”
Just a year ago, he was targeted 169 times and hauled in 107 passes for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns. This season has been a different story as he has just 456 yards receiving and has a career low in yards per reception through 10 games. Johnson also hasn’t scored a touchdown.
Johnson began the season being targeted 10 or more times in four of the team’s five games, including 33 in the first three contests. He has only received 10 targets once since rookie quarterback, Kenny Pickett took over the starting job over Mitch Trubisky and what has been even more staggering is the success rate when the ball goes his way. On the year, he has a team-high 86 targets, but has only 51 receptions. He has just a 59% catch rate.
The rookie signal-caller commented after the matchup on Johnson’s lack of looks in the passing game. He credited the Bengals defense for stymieing him:
“With the coverage they were playing, I felt like they weren’t letting Diontae get singled up,” Pickett said.
Pickett even shared in Johnson’s frustration acknowledging how great of player he is and that something needs to change going forward to get him the ball in space more often:
“That’s frustrating when he’s that good of a player, that talented, and they try and take him out of the game plan. There is some things [that can be done], maybe move him around more and get him in different spots to try and get him the ball, you know? But when they’re playing a two-high shell and they got a safety over the top, it’s tough.”
Johnson absolutely needs to be more involved with the offense. He is a dynamic playmaker in space and poses another threat alongside Pickens. He recently signed an extension in the off-season, but disgruntled wide receivers aren’t new to the Steelers locker room. The last thing the franchise needs heading into 2023 is Johnson no longer wanting to be a part of the organization due to his lack of targets the rest of the season.
Do you think the wide receiver should be upset about how his season has gone since Pickett took over as the starter? Let us know in the comments below!