The Pittsburgh Steelers passing game has left much to be desired through 10 weeks so far. The struggles have had a lot to do with their 3-6 record, which leaves them with a slim chance to make the playoffs. With the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger in the off-season, an adjustment period was expected. Both new quarterbacks, Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett, have had their fair share of struggles.
As a result, guys like Diontae Johnson have had to watch their production suffer. After a career year in 2021 in which he racked up 1,161 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, Johnson has been far from those numbers this season. After earning a contract extension, the fourth-year wideout was looking to build off his first career Pro Bowl year.
That hasn’t exactly happened, at least according to the box score. Through nine games, Johnson has just 47 catches for 435 yards, while failing to reach the endzone. ESPN has started their own measure to track the best wideouts in football, called “receiver tracking metrics.” As of now, Johnson has been the second-best wide receiver in the NFL this season in terms of getting open. Surprisingly, his numbers after the catch aren’t all that great, thus why his overall stats are down.
In an interview with reporters on Wednesday, Johnson hinted at this exact fact. That is, the fact that he’s still getting open as much (if not more) than he normally does. While it hasn’t translated to his numbers, quarterback play obviously plays a big role in that. Johnson discussed the unique situation he’s in this year with new quarterbacks, while focusing on not getting frustrated:
“I just gotta keep doing my thing, keep putting it on film. They see it, the coaches see it. I gotta keep just doing me. It’s going to come, I can’t be worried about pressing. I gotta understand the situation I’m in this year. Just gotta work with what I gotta work with,” Johnson said via the Steelers’ YouTube page. “It’s nothing that I can do about that. The coaches can’t throw the ball to me. Only thing I can control is my attitude and my effort, and I’m going to do that. I’m not trying to put no bad energy on film. I just gotta keep playing and keep getting Kenny [Pickett] better.”
Johnson’s frustration has been obvious at times throughout his career. That became particularly evident early in the 2022 season, as he failed to keep his emotions in check on a few occasions. Just from viewers at home, it was clear that he was frustrated with the play of Trubisky, who started the team’s first four games this season. That even led to the two getting into a confrontation at halftime of the Week 4 loss to the New York Jets.
If you remember, that’s when Pickett took over the job, in the second half of that game. The confrontation likely didn’t have anything to do with the quarterback change, as head coach Mike Tomlin had probably already made that decision. Weeks later, the star wideout confirmed the confrontation. At other times, Johnson has made it quite clear that he’s not exactly been pleased with the coaching. Of course, that would be mostly directed at offensive coordinator, Matt Canada.
As we know, nobody is more about the drama than NFL wide receivers. We’ve seen it firsthand with the Steelers over the years, perhaps no one more obvious than Antonio Brown. These guys all want the ball on each and every play. It is good to hear that Johnson may be maturing a bit, as he’s working to be more patient with the situation the team is in.
What do you think of these comments? Have your thoughts changed on Diontae Johnson this season? Do you still see him as a No. 1 WR for this team (or even in this league)? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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