3 reasons why Steelers should finally favor Washington over Johnson

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers James Washington (13) and Diontae Johnson (18) Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers James Washington (13) and Diontae Johnson (18) Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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After the Pittsburgh Steelers’ ugly win over the Ravens, where should they turn to fix all of these dropped passes?

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time in 2020 the Steelers have dealt with a lot of dropped passes. A big part of it has to do with Diontae Johnson. The blame doesn’t fall squarely on Johnson, as him being a smaller wide receiver gives Ben Roethlisberger a smaller area to throw to. Looking at Chase Claypool, his size and stature aren’t just good for jumping. His long wingspan gives him a very large catch radius which gives Ben a lot more room for error.

So I will definitely concede that not all of Johnson’s drops are on him. Ben isn’t, nor has he ever been, the most accurate passer in the league. However, Johnson dropped one of Ben’s best throws all season in the 4th quarter of their Week 12 Matchup and it may have been the most gut-wrenching drop I’ve seen by a member of the Black and Gold in 2020.

Diontae Johnson’s potential is otherworldly. However, he isn’t ready yet.

I don’t think there is a member of the Steelers that is as dangerous as he is with the ball in his hands. He is already one of the most elusive skill players in the entire league and he is just in his sophomore season.

However, there isn’t a player that makes more mistakes, in terms of ball security, than Johnson on this roster. It started in Week 1, where his first punt return of the season was muffed. In Week 2 he fumbled a handoff on a jet sweep. It goes beyond being the only player on the Steelers to have fumbles in consecutive weeks this season. He has the most drops on the team this season by quite a bit. It is becoming clear that he is significantly less reliable than some of the older pass catchers on this team like JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington.

In 12 games this season, Johnson has caught less than 62% of his passes in 10 games. One of the games where he caught more than 62% of his passes was against Philadelphia, where he only received 1 target and caught it before leaving the game with an injury. He has managed a total of 94 targets so far this season, averaging just under 8 targets a game. He has managed to turn that into 583 receiving yards. That seems okay, but averaging just 48.5 yards a game on 8 targets a game is not an impressive stat line for the player who leads the team in targets.