What exactly would be the definition of a break out season? As it pertains to the NFL, it would be when a player takes a huge step forward in production on the field. While some rookies burst onto the scene, several take some time to get acclimated to life in the pros. Pro Football Focus recently released their list of Year 2 players who could make a splash for their respective teams.
For fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, you will be proud to know they have two players on the list! None other than inside linebacker Devin Bush and wide receiver Diontae Johnson. Check out what they had to say about the tandem, and why they made their list:
WR DIONTAE JOHNSON, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Diontae Johnson had 680 receiving yards and five touchdowns as a third-round rookie last year, so you could make the case that he’s already broken out. But when you consider what the quarterback situation was like in Pittsburgh with no Ben Roethlisberger, you will soon appreciate how much more there is to come. Johnson is an extremely slick route-runner and was regularly open only to see the ball miss him completely. He snagged 91% of the catchable targets thrown his way and broke 18 tackles after the catch, second among all rookies. Mason Rudolph (53.0) and Devlin “Duck” Hodges (45.8) each posted lowly PFF grades, so if Johnson gets a full season of quality passing play from a healthy Roethlisberger, we could see him evolve into one of the better receivers in the game.
LB DEVIN BUSH, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Again, depending on how you measure these things, you may believe Devin Bush has already hit the ground running in the NFL. He led all rookie linebackers with 84 solo tackles and 22 assists (by PFF’s more accurate, double-checked count), but his overall grade was just 62.9. This is in large part due to the onerous responsibilities the Steelers place on their linebackers, which can expose them to consistently tough situations. Bush acclimated well in his first year, and so well, in fact, that with a full year in the system, he could kick on and look like one of the best in the league in 2020. Bush surrendered five touchdowns in coverage, two more than any other rookie linebacker, and was also penalized twice as much as any other first-year linebacker. But the plays he did make suggest he could develop into something special, maybe as soon as Year 2.
Some people love PFF, and others can’t stand their metrics. Either way, I believe most would agree both Johnson and Bush have all the makings of stars in the league, and Year 2 might be the year the switch gets flipped on and they begin to perform at a high level.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2020 regular season.