The Pittsburgh Steelers raised more than a few eyebrows when they selected Diontae Johnson in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft. Comparisons to Antonio Brown were inevitable. Both players played in the Mid-American Conference, were similar heights and weights and excelled at the same things. It didn’t help Johnson was selected with one of the picks the Steelers acquired in the Brown trade.
On Sunday, Johnson showed Steelers fans why the team thought he was worth that pick, turning in a huge breakout game in a 23-17 win against the Arizona Cardinals.
The 23-year-old Johnson struck early. With under two minutes to go in the first quarter, Johnson fielded a punt at the 15-yard line, breezed past a couple would-be tacklers and crossed all the way across the field for an 85-yard punt return to extend the Steelers’ lead.
In the third quarter, Johnson struck again. He hauled in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Devlin Hodges to give the Steelers a 20-10 lead. Johnson finished the contest with six catches for 60 yards and a score. He led all Steelers receivers in catches and yards.
Even his non-scoring plays were impressive.
— NFL (@NFL) December 8, 2019
It was just one game, but Johnson showed off all the traits that made him a compelling draft pick. The fact that the Steelers were able to take Johnson with the draft pick they got in the Brown trade makes the deal look so much worse for the Oakland Raiders. Brown did not appear in a regular-season game with the Raiders. The team cut Brown just before the start of the season.
On the field, the Steelers don’t need Johnson to be the next Brown. The team just needs him to become a solid playmaker who can occasionally break off big catches and solid returns. Johnson proved he could do that Sunday.
If Johnson turns into something more, that just makes the trade an even bigger win for Pittsburgh.
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