Diontae Johnson shows promise of potentially being the next great Steelers wide receiver drafted.
The Steelers have quite a successful history of drafting young wide receivers and developing them into playmakers. Their resume of receivers most recently includes (not in any particular order) Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, Martavis Bryant, Juju Smith-Schuster, and none other than Antonio Brown. Diontae Johnson looks like he will be the next man up.
Diontae Johnson was drafted with the 66th pick in the 2019 draft out of the University of Toledo. Ironically enough, his NFL comparison coming out of the draft was former Steelers receiver, Antonio Brown.
In college, Diontae Johnson did a very nice job of producing, finishing with 135 receptions, 2,235 yards receiving, and 23 touchdowns. He was awarded First Team All-Mac as a wide receiver and punt returner in 2017 and 2018, Second team All-Mac as a kick returner in 2017 and 2018. He is a smaller receiver, only 5-10 and 183 lbs, but he uses his size and speed to his advantage.
He uses his size and quickness to torch defensive backs out of the break and at the top of his routes. He has a squeaky clean release and can run just about every route in the route tree. He is also tremendous after the catch. He led the NFL in missed tackles after the catch with eighteen (tied with Deebo Samuel). In his first NFL season with the Steelers, he racked up 59 receptions, 680 receiving yards, and 5 touchdowns (one punt return). Those numbers, however, are quite deceiving.
He was not a starter until week three of the 2019 season and it was Mason Rudolph throwing to him. If things could not have gotten worse for him, Mason Rudolph got hurt and then the QB1 position went to undrafted free agent Devlin Hodges. He also reportedly played the majority of the season with an injured groin and that resulted in offseason surgery for him that he still has not been cleared from.
It is only the beginning
Diontae Johnson was one of the few bright spots for the Steelers offense in 2019. He looked absolutely terrific, even with back up quarterbacks.
I predict that both Juju Smith-Schuster and Johnson will produce one thousand yard receiving seasons. The last time that happened was Juju Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown in 2018. Now it will be a pair of twenty-three-year-olds in Juju Smith-Schuster and the Antonio Brown comparison.