The 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers season was forgettable for a lot of reasons. The team failed to make the postseason after a 9-8 finish, the start of the season ultimately doomed the season, and for individual players there was a lot left to be desired.
For wide receiver Diontae Johnson, last season was, as he called it, “odd” in the fact he stayed healthy, was productive, but failed to score a touchdown throughout the entire regular season.
Entering the 2023 campaign, what is Johnson working on the get himself back to the 2021 version of himself? The answer is simple...everything.
“I am working on everything really,” said Johnson. “Pretty much my main focus has been yards after catch. I want to show I can really run with the ball in my hands and show that breakaway speed. I have been doing a lot of running. That is the main focus. Hitting on a little here and there. I am ready.
“(Last year) was an odd year for me. Everybody goes through their ups and downs. This is the get back year for me. I am going to put it all on film and let everybody know what they have been missing.”
It is hard to ignore the lack of points scored for a player who made getting into the end zone a common occurrence when Ben Roethlisberger was the one throwing him passes. It is a feeling he misses.
“I just missed that feeling,” Johnson said. “That feeling with the crowd. I just want to get that feeling again. It’s a different feeling when you score a touchdown and get those six points. It’s all the plays that lead into the touchdown. It will feel even more special to me because of all the work you do to get in the end zone.
“I almost had one. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. It’s a new year and I am ready.”
Getting back into town and being around his teammates is something Johnson doesn’t take for granted. It’s a new year and a clean slate not just for the veteran wide receiver, but for the entire team.
“It’s good being back, seeing all of the guys,” said Johnson. “I am looking forward to getting it going. Put it on film. Show what I have been working on and chase that championship.”
Johnson, along with the rest of the offensive playmakers, have been utilizing Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp to perfect their craft and get a feel for what everyone is capable of. It’s part of the teamwork process.
“Just getting a feel for everybody,” said Johnson, who was in town for the start of OTAs. “Learning how people play, their moves. Getting to know each other. Team bonding. See what the coaches have planned for us and put it on film.”
Will Johnson hit pay dirt in 2023? It certainly seems unlikely, barring injury, Johnson is held out of the end zone for a second straight year. But what might be the ultimate test for Johnson would be his connection with second year quarterback Kenny Pickett.
With training camp just around the corner, we’ll find out how things look sooner, rather than later.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the 2023 NFL offseason.