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Mike Tomlin downplays the praise surrounding rookie WR Diontae Johnson

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Mike Tomlin had something of a warning for both the fans and Johnson in response to all encouraging words said about his rookie wide receiver this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

While there have been plenty of positive words for a number of the Pittsburgh Steelers top draft picks this offseason, it would be fair to say that Diontae Johnson has been receiving more than his fair share of the accolades as of late. Already projected as the starter by publications like Pro Football Focus, the rookie wide receiver has even been the subject of rare praise from Ben Roethlisberger during OTAs.

However, just in case there was any danger of Johnson letting all the encouraging words go to his head, Mike Tomlin brought him crashing back down to earth with a healthy dose of reality on Wednesday when speaking to reporters after practice. Asked for his assessment of the young rookie, Tomlin offered something or a warning to the former Toledo product that Johnson would be wise to listen to.

“I see a guy that looks pretty good in shorts, you know. The physicality and the intimidation element of the game, particularly as it relates to the wideout position, you just don’t know what you’re looking at until you get those guys in uniform. So, you know, I try not to paint with a broad brush off of things that I see out here this time of year. We’ve all seen really impressive guys out here that disappeared in Latrobe, particularly at that position.”

Tomlin’s disdain for the media hype that often surrounds “football in shorts” has long been documented and it very much fits with his form to hear him downplaying the efforts of a rookie during OTAs. Many will remember the hype surrounding James Washington around this same time last year and how little that translated to his game day performances during the early portions of the regular season.

Johnson has barely started his NFL journey having sat out the early stages of OTAs with a minor hamstring injury and fans would be equally wise to temper their enthusiasm about the rookie’s potential until he has gone through the grind of training camp. Former Steelers wide receiver Justin Hunter was regularly reported as a standout performer from April to September from the day he entered the league as a second-round pick of the Tennessee Titans. But fans of all four of the teams he has played for are still waiting for him to have a good game when it actually counts.