Steelers Diontae Johnson might just be the slipperiest WR in the NFL

Tommy Jaggi
Diontae Johnson #18 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Diontae Johnson #18 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
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The Steelers found themselves a weapon in Diontae Johnson. Here’s why he might be the slipperiest wide receiver in the NFL this year.

Diontae Johnson had a rough start to his second NFL season. With high expectations and all eyes on the Steelers starting receiver, Johnson had a costly fumble on his first punt return of the 2020 season. In the first half of his Week 1 performance against the New York Giants, the young wide receiver struggled to get into a rhythm. But little by little, fans are gaining more confidence in Johnson than they ever had before.

While the young receiver fumbled for a second time this year on a reverse in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos, he eventually left fans of both sides in shock with what he was able to do with the ball in his hands. Despite his average depth of target coming at just 6.3 yards past the line of scrimmage, Johnson has been able to turn that into a whopping 5.3 yards after the catch per reception, according to advanced analytics from Pro Football Reference.

As a result of his shiftiness after the catch, Johnson has forced 9 missed tackles in just the first two weeks of the season. It would have been a handful more had his punt-return-touchdown not been called back for an iffy block-in-the-back call.

Is Steelers Diontae Johnson the slipperiest receiver in the NFL?

Johnson doesn’t have elite top-end speed, and he’s certainly never the biggest receiver on the field. He still has work to do as a route runner, and his hands need to become more consistent (as evidenced by his two drops in as many games this season). However, the best word I can think of to describe him is slippery.

Diontae Johnson has been credited for just one ‘broken tackle’ on the season so far, but that’s because the first defender can never even get a hand on him. He has an uncanny ability to put his foot in the ground and stop and accelerate on a dime.

It’s because of this that he has drawn comparisons to former Steelers star, Antonio Brown. Brown didn’t have the drop issues like Johnson and he was a much more well-rounded player in terms of his ability to catch the ball in traffic and win down the field. However, from what we have seen so far, you could certainly make the case that Johnson is even slipperier of the two. In fact, there may not be a receiver in the NFL right now who has more wiggle after the catch.

Obviously, Johnson is going to need more than this if he would like to develop into a true number one receiver someday. He’s reckless with the ball and has too many concentration drops. What’s most frustrating is he can look amazing one moment and have a big fumble or key third-down drop the next. Fortunately, the upside is all there, as he has clearly shown us that so far.

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With how slippery he is after the catch, it’s hard to come up with a good comparison for his playstyle. Regardless, Diontae Johnson is an incredibly fun player to watch with his joystick moves in the open space. From what we have seen so far in 2020, he might just be the slipperiest wide receiver in the NFL this year.

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