Diontae Johnson
Did the Steelers find a star with Diontae Johnson? The former Toledo product might not be Antonio Brown but he’s shown real flashes of promise. (Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Say whatever you want about Mike Tomlin and the Steelers. Is there anybody better at developing running back and wide receiver talent? It feels like Pittsburgh never whiffs at those positions. The list is never ending. Santonio Holmes, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, yeah you get it. The Steelers may have struck gold again with Diontae Johnson.

When the Steelers traded Antonio Brown, I was skeptical they could replace him with a small school player like Diontae Johnson. That’s a lot of pressure to live up to. I didn’t love the selection because I thought it was risky. Trading Antonio Brown was smart. Coming out of it with a small school player from Toledo is bold. Well, Johnson looks like he’s well on his way to thrive in the NFL.

Last year’s receiver class is going to end up looking very impressive. Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, and Terry McLaurin look like home runs. Diontae Johnson could end up joining that group. He did some things very well in not the best of circumstances. Remember, Ben Roethlisberger barely played a year ago.

Johnson had 680 yards and 5 touchdowns as a rookie. That was with Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges. It’s fair to think an uptick is coming with the return of Big Ben and heading into year two. Johnson did two things really well as a rookie. He created yards after the catch notching 18 broken tackles. Johnson also caught just about every ball he could. The Toledo product reeled in 91 percent of the catchable passes thrown his way.

I thought Johnson appeared to be a plus route runner as a rookie. He got open often. 4.53 speed isn’t special but it’s more than fine. Johnson might be just 5-foot-10 but he’s not weak. He posted 15 bench press reps which is good enough for a wide out.

In terms of fantasy, I think Johnson is a really smart flier to take in the later rounds. Especially in keeper leagues. The Steelers have developed WR talent. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the guy but there have been rumblings they won’t pay to re-sign him. Wouldn’t be terribly surprising. Pittsburgh has done it before. James Washington is the only other real competition for targets and he stinks.

Keep an eye on Diontae Johnson heading into the 2020 season. Pittsburgh may have something here. Like always, you trust them to develop this position. The funniest part about all of this is this is the pick the Raiders handed them for Antonio Brown. Johnson could make this trade turn into pure comedy for the Steelers.

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