Steelers WR Diontae Johnson enters 2021 leaning on focus and confidence
Acknowledging his past issues as a player, Pittsburgh Steelers WR Diontae Johnson enters the 2021 NFL season with a newfound focus.
“This guy is the third most elusive wide receiver, and look at him, he’s looking down at his hands, like, why are you failing me now”. Considering the emotion in the voice of NBC’s own Cris Collinsworth or the picture painted on Pittsburgh Steelers WR Diontae Johnson, the drop would seem like an anomaly to any casual fan. However, for those familiar with the weights that have anchored Johnson’s potential, this was just another routine game in his career.
In fact, this marked his second drop of that night, occurring in week 14 against the Buffalo Bills last season, in the first five minutes. The beginning to an uninspiring performance by Diontae, which at the time reflected the aura surrounding the Steelers, he would end with four catches on seven targets for forty yards and no touchdowns.
“The rollercoaster of Diontae Johnson rides on,” some would tweet, although most of everyone’s means, despite the trolls or outright haters, was to ask why. Why can he never get his hands under control in being a consistent pass-catcher?
Steelers WR aims for confidence & hopefully ushers into new levels
Recently asked a series of questions from various media members in a Steelers press conference regarding his focus and what he has done to improve, Johnson explained it plainly.
"“I’ve been catching on a tennis ball machine I bought this offseason because it’s a smaller target, so obviously you got to really focus on the balls, and it’s not a big object coming at you. It’s not like when I catch a football. It’s easy. It’s always been easy for me. It’s just that focus and that confidence, keeping that confidence.”"
Whether you shook your head, sucked air through your teeth, or immediately scrolled down to the comment section, the second sentence in this statement likely drew an adverse reaction given Johnson’s history. As we have stated multiple times, drops are Diontae’s “Achilles Heel”. Given Pittsburgh led the NFL in 2020 with 43, Johnson was the only member of the Steelers to have double-digit dropped passes (13), leading the team’s WR group with a 9.0 drop rate percentage.
Both career-highs in his young career, confidence, and focus may be the only answers for Diontae going forward. From a talent standpoint, he’s athletic, can separate from defenders really well, and a playmaker with the ball in his hands. Even the number speak for themselves.
Furthermore, ever since being drafted to the Steelers in 2019, Johnson leads the team in targets (236), receptions (147), receiving yards (1603), and tied for first in receiving touchdowns with 12.
Imagining the possible impact if he was able to consistently be mentally prepared and look the ball into his hands for a split second longer, could it rise to a level we may not be prepared for? Year three typically provides the script of what players will be in this league & with wrapped up star potential, the story may be long from over with Johnson.