The Ben/AB dynamic duo will go down as one of the most productive combos in NFL history. Their numbers are staggering. The pairing resulted in a multitude of unforgettable memories for all of Steelers Nation. Sadly, all their accomplishments failed to add a single Lombardi Trophy to the already loaded trophy case. Worse still, a legacy was forever tarnished and a record-setting opportunity lost.
Last season's offensive struggles did nothing to help rid me of the memories of AB, both good and bad. If anything, watching Steelers WR Diontae Johnson have a truly impressive rookie season, especially considering the subpar level of quarterback play all year, all seemed strangely familiar. It shouldn't have been a surprise in any way, seeing how I called him a AB clone in my Grading the Pick article after his selection.
In all honesty, I was far from pleased with Johnson's selection. I felt he would have been available in a later round, and I wanted the Steelers to draft a receiver with length, long an item on Ben's wish list. Thankfully, I was wrong and Johnson appears to have been an excellent selection.
Here is a excerpt from that article: "First l will focus on the good news. The Steelers know Diontae Johnson very well, seeing how they invited him in for that predraft visit. Johnson’s professional comparison is none other than Antonio Brown. Johnson is 5’10” and 183 lbs. which is almost identical to Brown. Johnson ran a 4.53 40 which is also similar to AB. Even Johnson’s strengths and weaknesses listed in his draft profile sound all to familiar. Excellent footwork and release off the line. Consistent hands and slippery in the open field. Kick return ability. Weaknesses include questionable top end speed and concentration lapses. Sound like anybody else we used to know?"
Diontae Johnson shares many of the same athletic abilities as his predecessor, but he is more than a AB clone. He utilizes his short area quickness and impressive acceleration to gain almost instantaneous separation. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Johnson achieved the highest average yards of separation per pass route for any receiver in the league. What does that statistic tell us? Basically, he was working open consistently on his pass routes. Imagine what he can do with a NFL caliber QB capable of getting him the ball.
Ben Roethlisberger has the ability to throw guys open, excelling at the back shoulder throws which are nearly impossible to defend. With Ben's absence last season, those type of throws were nowhere to be found. This ability should only add to Johnson's arsenal and make him that much harder to slow down. The Ben/DJ duo just needs reps to get their timing down.
I can see it now. Fourth quarter, two minute drill, tie game. Steelers have the ball, trying to get into field goal range. Facing a third and long near mid field, Ben takes the shotgun snap and fires a pinpoint pass about twenty yards downfield toward the sidelines. Johnson races toward the ball, extends for the hands catch with the simultaneous double tap. First down, Pittsburgh Steelers. A couple of running plays to milk the clock and position the ball for Boswell's liking. Boz makes the kick and the Steelers win the game.
I can see it playing out in my Black and Gold mind already. It is glorious. Another cherished memory for all of Steelers Nation, thanks to the heroic efforts of Big Ben and DJ.