Steelers WR Diontae Johnson is poised for a big breakout in 2020.
For years, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been a model of how to effectively develop young wide receiver talent.
Especially with Ben Roethlisberger at the quarterback position in the last 15 plus years, the Steelers have cycled through a lot of different wide receivers who could be considered some of the best to play in the NFL over that timeframe, from guys like Santonio Holmes all the way back in 2006 to players like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others in more recent years.
For the most part, the Steelers have been able to utilize receivers on their rookie contracts and not much beyond that, with a few exceptions of course. They have players who come into their program and have a very high rate of success.
Diontae Johnson is the latest example of that for Pittsburgh, and he seems poised for massive success in his second NFL season, especially if Ben Roethlisberger can stay healthy.
Johnson was one of the NFL’s most elusive WRs in 2019
Johnson, who is 5-foot-10 and some change and 183 pounds broke nine tackles on receptions last season, good for eighth in the NFL among all players.
He also showed his elusiveness on punt returns with 20 returns including a touchdown and over 12 yards per return.
Johnson ended up catching 59 passes in his rookie season with all of the quarterback shuffling that went on in Pittsburgh and he racked up 680 yards, five touchdowns, and he also averaged over 10 yards per carry on four opportunities out of the backfield.
The interesting thing about Johnson? There’s nothing really overwhelming about him at a glance. His college numbers took a pretty big dip from 2017 to 2018 at Toledo, where he’s already not getting a ton of national publicity.
Although Johnson was a third-round draft pick, he was a high third-round draft pick at 66th overall. What did the Steelers see in him that others maybe didn’t?
Even without great quarterback play, Johnson was able to showcase his skills as a route runner and after-the-catch threat with the Steelers in his rookie season.
Imagine if Ben Roethlisberger can have the offense firing on all cylinders in 2020.
It’s more than reasonable to expect Johnson to be one of the NFL’s top breakout players of the 2020 season with the kind of production we’ve seen from him already.
Despite not being much to look at physically or athletically, Johnson’s play speed and ability to make people miss are apparently intangible traits that the Steelers identified on his college tape, and even coming up from Toledo, he’s made a tremendous early impact as an NFL receiver with much more on the horizon.