PFF says Steelers WR Diontae Johnson is a Rookie of the Year candidate
By Tommy Jaggi
It didn’t take long for Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson to get noticed. He was drafted high in the 3rd round with the 66th overall pick that Pittsburgh, ironically enough, received as part of the Antonio Brown deal.
To many fans, Johnson was a complete unknown when the Steelers drafted him – a small receiver with below average athletic testing from the MAC. However, Johnson soon drew comparisons to former Steelers receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown with his quick twitch and ability to create separation.
In an article from Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus, he placed Diontae Johnson 9th on list of 10 newly-drafted players who should be candidates for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Here’s what he had to say:
"Not the next receiver you were expecting? Johnson goes to a Steelers club that heaved the ball all over the yard last season – Ben Roethlisberger’s 675 passing attempts were 36 more than any quarterback in the NFL. A whopping 164 of those targets are up for grabs with the departure of Antonio Brown. Now Johnson won’t replace Brown’s production, but he should replace his role within the offense with a very similar skill set."
Renner is obviously higher on Diontae Johnson that the most of the mainstreamed media was during the draft process. It’s not often you see a 3rd round pick draw consideration for Offensive Rookie of the Year before he ever sees the field in the NFL. However, it’s not too hard to see why with Johnson.
The former Toledo receiver is a cut of the same breed as Brown and Sanders – an undersized receiver that excels as a route runner and really knows how to play the game. In a Pro Football Focus article from April 30th, PFF writer Steve Palazzolo they had this to say about Diontae Johnson to the Steelers:
"Prior to the draft, we compared Johnson to former Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, so the fit here is obvious. We’re not predicting a Hall-of-Fame career for Johnson, but he adds sharp-cutting route running and a knack for getting open that the Steelers need to tap into with Brown’s departure. Johnson has a path to the field immediately given the inconsistency surrounding the rest of the receiving corps around JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Ben Roethlisberger may have a new favorite weapon in short time."
Obviously, Pro Football Focus is assuming that Johnson is going to step into Antonio Brown’s role at some point this season. Renner and Palazzolo are both very high on Diontae Johnson and what he could potentially bring to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Other than JuJu Smith-Schuster, we don’t know which receivers will emerge as Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite targets in 2019. The Steelers have James Washington – a player they spent a 2nd round pick on in 2018. They also grabbed Donte Moncrief in free agency this offseason.
Johnson may not start the season as the Steelers number two receivers, but it”s plausible enough that he could overtake the veterans at some point during his rookie campaign.
For what it’s worth, we do know that Pro Football Focus considers Diontae Johnson a Rookie of the Year candidate. We will get a better feel for his role on the Steelers as a rookie in the coming months.