The Steelers lost AB to the Oakland Raiders, but were rewarded with Diontae Johnson. The third-round draft pick they received for the trade was used on the wide receiver out of Toledo.
He gained 137 receptions for 2,276 yards and 24 touchdowns in 38 games played. He also returned 79 kickoffs (1,849 yards) for a 23.4 return average and two touchdowns and 17 punt returns (243 yards) with two return scores.
Many thought the Steelers could have drafted Johnson in a later round. Coach Darryl Drake didn’t want to wait. He told the Steelers Digest, “There were so many coaches who were at the pro day and everybody raved about this kid, so he probably would not have been around. I know for a fact Tampa Bay were going to take him with their next pick. I got cussed out by the Tampa Bay head coach who called me some names for taking him because that was his guy.
After returning just one punt in the first eight games, he has found himself being used more on kick returns in the last five games. As Steelers Nation know, last Sunday Johnson became the first Steelers’ rookie to return a punt for a touchdown and have a touchdown reception in the same game since Louis Lipps in 1984.
For that effort, the NFL have honoured him as their Special Teams Player of the Week.
Johnson hasn’t had an easy introduction to professional football. He has come in for some criticism and he suffered a concussion against the Browns. Before the Cardinals game, Coach Tomlin was asked about Johnson and hinted they were carefully managing Johnson’s contribution.
The coaches have been rewarded for their patience and Johnson’s progress is a fine tribute to coach Drake.
Johnson becomes the fourth player this season to win the AFC Player of the Week while T.J.Watt won the Defensive honour for November.