If you were to approach a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and ask them the following question, you could probably guess their response.
“Tell me the first word that comes to mind when you think of Diontae Johnson.”
The responses you could possibly get would be:
But let’s be honest. The most common response would be...
In 2020 Johnson was the team’s leader in dropped passes, and it got to the point where he was benched at one point by head coach Mike Tomlin. It is easy for fans to sit on the couch and yell how it is their job to catch the football. Don’t think Johnson doesn’t realize that. However, Johnson has been working hard this offseason to eliminate drops from his game. The first step was to recognize the problem.
“I have been working on everything,” Johnson told reporters during mandatory minicamp last week. “You can’t focus on one specific thing. Yeah, I had drops last year but that comes with focus and stuff like that. Just having confidence in myself. I have been believing in myself every time and knowing every time that ball comes my way, I am going to make that catch.”
If you are like me, the above answer isn’t enough to have me satisfied Johnson is over the drops in 2021. I want to know exactly what he is doing to help him hold onto the football better this season. As it turns out, Johnson is thinking outside the box in this regard.
“I have been catching on my tennis ball machine I bought this offseason,” said Johnson. “It’s a smaller target so you have to focus on the ball. It’s not a big object coming at you. Now when I catch a football, it’s always been easy to me, but it’s that focus and keeping it.
“Taking your eye off the ball that one split second. That is the main thing. Focus. I have been focusing on catch first, run second.”
Another change which might be coming to the receiving corps is the addition of running back Najee Harris. You might be wondering how Harris, a rookie running back, can impact the receivers. Johnson sees Harris dual threat capability alleviating pressure in the passing game.
“It’s different,” said Johnson of Harris’ pass catching ability. “It takes a lot of pressure off the receivers having a guy like him being able to catch out of the backfield like that. It’s special because it also puts a lot of pressure on the defense too because they have to worry about covering a running back who is capable of catching like a receiver.”
You might not believe a rookie can help motivate veterans, but that is exactly what the Alabama product is doing within the Steelers’ locker room.
“Being around him, his work ethic, how hard practice shows he is hungry and ready to play.” Johnson said.
If Johnson can eliminate the drops, and Harris can impact the offense the way he suggests, fans might be in for a treat this season.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.