Why Diontae Johnson not being at Steelers OTA’s is concerning
By Austin Lloyd
Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson was not present for the opening week of organized team activities. Regardless of the reason(s) why, that is a problem.
When looking at the Steelers passing offense that left a lot to be desired last season, most folks want to turn their attention to now-retired quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But its issues went beyond just who was throwing the ball, with who the ball was being thrown to playing a sizable role in the dysfunction as well.
Pittsburgh’s receiving corps saw multiple hiccups in 2021, but one of the biggest was Diontae Johnson’s nasty habit of letting the pigskin get away from him over and over again. Even when the routes were short and Roethlisberger hit him with good passes, he failed to reel it in on several occasions.
With that in mind, the dreams of Steelers fans would surely involve Johnson being one of the first guys present for OTAs. However, the opening week is in the books, and he was nowhere to be found.
This is never a particularly good thing for a player’s image, as it doesn’t exactly make them out to be that great of a team guy, and the last thing that athletes need is anyone questioning their commitment to the game that they get paid millions to play.
This matter goes beyond the everyday suspicion of laziness, though, as Johnson clearly has dilemmas in front of him that need attention: not just the aforementioned state of his catching, but also the fact that he will almost definitely have an unfamiliar QB slinging him the rock this Fall.
Fellow Pittsburgh wide receiver Chase Claypool was aware of the speculation that was bound to engulf Johnson’s situation, and he spoke out in defense of his teammate as a result.
“I know Diontae, he’s grinding no matter where he is,” Claypool said. “I know a lot of people are looking into it, but I wouldn’t look into it too much. He’s perfecting his craft and he’s going to come ready.”
But while Claypool’s comments may be true, it’s less about where he’s doing this alleged “grinding” and more about the fact that he isn’t doing so with his team at the OTAs—where said grinding is supposed to take place.
Through all of this Diontae Johnson nonsense, it has been established that the opening week of OTAs were voluntary and that his presence was not demanded. But if next season is plagued by him continuing to drop catchable passes, you can guess one of the first things fans will call him out for.