For some reason any time second year wide receivers are discussed, you will rarely see Diontae Johnson’s name mentioned with the rest of the NFL. The 2019 rookie receiver’s class certainly had a plethora of skill sets which were on display throughout the season. This is not a knock against any of the other guys who played well for their respective clubs last season, but Johnson’s play was even more impressive all things considered. In fact, Johnson led all rookie’s in receptions with 59 despite the quarterback carousel the Steelers dealt with all last season. It is reasonable to expect that with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger his numbers will surely continue to climb.
I do believe JuJu Smith-Schuster will be a member of the Steelers beyond the upcoming season. It is big year for JuJu in 2020 after a disappointing 2019 campaign. With that being said, I do believe it is possible after the 2020 season we are looking at Johnson and not JuJu as the number one receiver on this team. Johnson has shared some of his offseason workouts on social media, and it looks as though he as put on some weight since the Steelers last played which was paramount for him heading into year two. Despite his production in his rookie season, it was evident he needed to get stronger. What made Johnson so attractive to the Steelers in the 2019 draft was his ability to separate from defenders with his route running. As a rookie, he was able to get away with such a slight frame, but as the league starts to pay more attention to him and try to jam him at the line of scrimmage, It is very important for him to get stronger.
Some have compared Johnson’s explosiveness and game to the much maligned Antonio Brown. Time will tell if that is the case, but judging solely off of his rookie performance it is fair to say that the Steelers struck gold again in the wide receiver room. Whenever Johnson touches the ball, he has the ability to take it the distance and that makes him special. The definition of being “open” in college and the NFL is drastically different, but even as a rookie Johnson was able to showcase his separation skills. I believe he has the ability to reach 100 receptions, assuming Ben Roethlisberger remains healthy throughout the 2020 season.
Johnson has all the tools to be a number one receiver and after the 2020 season, I think it will no longer be a possibility but rather a reality.