Though some would stereotype Diontae Johnson based on his size (or lack thereof), reports are that the Pittsburgh Steelers have him operating on the outside right now as opposed to the slot – and rightfully so.
Chris Adamski of TribLIVE and others shared their thoughts on Diontae Johnson after day one of offseason training activities (OTAs):
Rookie WR Diontae Johnson reps outside (and not in slot) during 1st Steelers OTAhttps://t.co/Rnbntt6RDA
— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) May 21, 2019
Diontae Johnson: “I took, like, one rep inside, but the majority of the reps are outside. So that’s what I am kind of focusing on right now.” #Steelers
— Blitzburgh (@SteelBlitzburgh) May 22, 2019
“I feel like my releases are just as similar as his, and my route-running also.”
— DK Pittsburgh Sports (@DKPghSports) May 21, 2019
If you watched any amount of film on Diontae Johnson at his days in Toledo, it doesn’t take long to figure out why he belongs on the outside of the formation. Though Johnson is only 5’10 1/2” and 183 pounds, he has a fantastic release at the line of scrimmage and really knows how to create separation out of his breaks.
Johnson also likened his game to Antonio Brown – a player of similar stature and athleticism who thrived as one of the NFL’s best receiver outside the numbers.
The Steelers are currently looking for an answer for a number two target outside of JuJu Smith-Schuster. They need a player that can assume Antonio Brown’s role and line up as the X receiver (a WR that lines up at the line of scrimmage and is often the sole receiver on his side of the field).
With an excellent ability to beat press coverage and savvy route running for his age, Diontae Johnson has the potential to be exactly that for the Steelers.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ryan Switzer, and Eli Rogers are all players who do their best work from inside the slot. If early OTA reps are any indication, the Steelers will be counting on Diontae Johnson to be a player that can contribute on the outside in the NFL.