Diontae Johnson earned that extension he recently got, though it increases the pressure on him to exceed expectations this year. The Pro Bowl wide receiver proved he should be the first wide receiver that the Steelers have extended in half a decade or more. Granted, it’s only a two-year deal. Johnson is crucial in the development of first-round rookie QB Kenny Pickett. A good WR who does everything right can help a QB’s development. Just look at Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and many others. So, can Johnson improve upon his great numbers from 2021? Can he establish himself as an elite WR that was deserving the team’s faith in him?
2021 Season Recap
Johnson made the Pro Bowl last year after a strong season that saw him lead the Steelers in targets, yards, receptions, and many other categories. In Big Ben’s noodle-arm last season, Diontae got 169 targets and caught 107 for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns. He dropped his fumbles to only two last year. He added 53 yards on the ground over five carries. The most significant step forward that Johnson took was his drops. In 2020, he had an untenable 13 drops. In 2021, he knocked that down to only five. That was a career-low and a massive step forward. It was an impressive third year for the Steelers’ WR.
2022 Season Projections
Johnson is in store for a much different season than 2021. He has added competition in the WR room, with George Pickens joining the fray. One can’t ignore Chase Claypool or rising tight end Pat Freiermuth. The same goes for who will be throwing the ball. Due to Mitch Trubisky or Pickett’s arms/inexperience in the Steelers’ system, there’s word the Steelers will be rushing the ball more than before. This fits both QBs’ skill sets since they are mobile, unlike Big Ben. In this forecast, I expect Johnson to be the dominant WR getting the vast share of targets, but not as many as in 2021 with the decreased passing work.
I have Johnson getting five rushing attempts, but it could rise if the Steelers are truly serious about becoming a rushing-oriented team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him eclipse 150 or fall below 140 targets. It depends on if Claypool is playing with his head, how Pickens and Calvin Austin develop, and how many targets Najee Harris takes. In the end, I believe it lies closer to 150. This allows Johnson to reach high-end WR2 numbers still. The passing efficiency will be lower, but the yardage will be higher per throw. This equals out to a 14.9 ppg PPR average. I’d take that gladly.
Buy/Sell Diontae Johnson?
Before the contract extension, Johnson was already a buy. The extension just made him more valuable. People were concerned he might go to a team that won’t use him correctly. His staying with Pittsburgh ensures he’s going to be used plenty. This leads to his value approaching two mid-late first-round picks. Johnson is entering his age-26 season, which means there’s plenty left in him for at least the next half-decade.
In a rebuild, Johnson is a terrific WR to build around. He is young enough to be a contender’s WR in a few years. He won’t score a large number of points due to the new QB system and offense. Johnson also fits a contender’s roster as an extremely strong WR3 or good WR2. He will not lose you weeks and could win you weeks. Overall, if you have the chance to buy Johnson for a first or a first and second, I’m doing it. He’s going to provide more than enough value beyond those picks.
Johnson just signed a good-sized extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers. This means that they view him as their long-term WR1. It adds pressure on him to perform like an elite WR. I know he can do that after his improvements in 2021. Although he has new QBs, they will still target Johnson plenty. He will produce as a high-end WR2 in dynasty. Don’t be surprised to see him potentially sneak into the WR1 tier if he scores enough touchdowns. Johnson fits any dynasty roster. I would want him on my squad as his value and price will only be going up.
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