Diontae Johnson has caught a bad case of the drops the last few weeks, and Steelers fans are not happy about it. Neither is head coach Mike Tomlin who benched Johnson for most of the first half. Unfortunately the result of that benching was some of the worst offensive football we have seen with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. So before we go running him out of town for too many dropped passes, let’s take a look at what happens without Pittsburgh’s leading receiver……
We learned something very important Sunday night. This offense can’t function without Diontae Johnson in the lineup. Now that Ben Roethlisberger has made the complete transformation to a quick passing offense, he needs a receiver like Johnson at his disposal. DJ is the best at beating press coverage on this team, and its not even close.
Even more important, Diontae Johnson has replaced Antonio Brown as Big Ben’s got to receiver. He is Ben’s first option on almost every play. Take him out of the lineup and Roethlisberger looks lost, much like he did when AB was not out there during their hay day. Johnson is the team’s runaway leader in receptions and targets in 2020. https://subscribers.footballguys.com/teams/teampage-pit-2.php
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Receivers like Ju Ju Smith Schuster, Chase Claypool, and even James Washington are certainly talented. What they lack however, is the short area quickness to be very affective in this new quick strike offense. Without Johnson to worry about, opposing corners can play more tight man coverage. That in turn forces Ben to hold the ball longer, which will result in more sacks and ultimately more turnovers.
This offensive line will not hold up to prolonged pressure if Ben consistently holds the ball too long. The single biggest reason why this team has given up the least sacks in the NFL is because of Roethlisberger getting the ball out so quickly. The fact of the matter is this line isn’t very good at run blocking, and barely average at pass protection. This is something we warned about earlier this year….Steelers offensive line could be a weakness in 2020
Think of this as a house of cards ready to fall without Diontae Johnson for any period of time. Without him, Ben Roethlisberger holds the ball longer than he wants to. The result of that is the Steelers pass protection gets exposed. That in turn leads to more sacks, and more interceptions. All of a sudden a struggling offense becomes a completely ineffective one.
Everyone wants to see Diontae Johnson fix this sudden case of the drops. There is no question it is killing the Steelers offense right now. But the next time we start calling for a benching or worse, keep in mind one thing. Diontae Johnson is the key to the entire offense. Without him this offense is finished, and so is this team.