As the Steelers hope to remain a competitor in the AFC, they need a star receiver to be consistent in the passing game
In eight months, the Pittsburgh Steelers went from the last undefeated team in the NFL to now holding onto relevancy in the AFC North. Of course, when losing names in free agency and retirement, that will play a factor.
The Steelers will be hoping to keep its status as a top team in the conference entering 2021. Overall, the division has gotten stronger with the Steelers regressing. The team lost three offensive lineman and multiple defensive players. Meanwhile, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Cleveland all improved.
The 2021 season will be the steel curtain call for Ben Roethlisberger. One season after undergoing major elbow surgery, the 39-year-old led the team to an 11-0 start and the best record in football. By season’s end, he was averaging 6.3 yards per throw and committing turnovers left and right.
Roethlisberger will be under scrutiny, but his career is coming to an end. Another player under the microscope who is just starting out? Diontae Johnson. He’ll be the name needing to step up before the season’s end.
Steelers: Johnson’s drops could cost him an extension
Overall, Johnson’s production has proven he can be a No. 1 receiver. Once drafted out of Toledo, he led Pittsburgh in 2019 with five touchdowns. In Year 2, Johnson led the Steelers with 923 yards and seven touchdowns.
Looking ahead, Johnson has the makings to be a high-end star in the passing game due to his route-running and speed. The biggest relies in a receiver’s biggest asset — his hands.
In 2019, he finished with six dropped passes on the campaign. Last season, he led the NFL with 14 dropped passes and struggled on short yardage situations.
Johnson leads the NFL over the past two seasons combined in dropped catchable balls. With JuJu Smith-Schuster returning on a one-year, prove-it deal and James Washington in a contract season, one receiver will be left out in the dark when it comes to extension time. The more drops Johnson has, the lesser chance he’ll earn a second contract.
Johnson in two years has shown he’s a high-end target for the Steelers’ pass-heavy attack. He’s not a complete receiver due to easy passes falling to the ground instead of for a positive gain. If the drops continue, expect Johnson’s days in Pittsburgh to be limited after 2022.