ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers entered the home stadium of the Buffalo Bills, wide receiver Diontae Johnson played the kind of game most players would like to forget.
Johnson had two drops in the game, after coming in with a drops issue already plaguing his 2020 season, and found himself benched for a good portion of the game and ended up with just four catches.
This season, Johnson is trying to move on from the drops issue that bothered him in 2020, and he had to come back to the site of his benching in order to start that journey on the right foot.
Johnson led the Steelers with five receptions on Sunday, going for 36 yards and most importantly, a five-yard touchdown that gave the team its first lead on the way to a 23-16 win over the Bills.
“He’s a competitor,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “That’s just part of the adversity that the game presents. Sometimes, it comes in the form of ebb and flow in terms of the game. Sometimes, it’s physical discomfort and so forth, and there are a lot of guys that pushed through a lot of things.”
Johnson checked both of those boxes on Sunday, as he went down with an early injury to his right knee before later returning to the game.
“I just kind of got tied up in the play and whatnot,” he said. “My knee got banged up a little bit, but I’m fine. Just came back into the game and tried to help the team win.”
When he did come back, he not only caught the ball, but he made a phenomenal catch in the back of the end zone to give the Steelers the lead.
Ben Roethlisberger : 18/32 for 188 yards, 1 TD & a 84 QB Rating
Diontae Johnson : 5 catches for 36 yards & a TD on 10 targets pic.twitter.com/FS93zOkulT
— Lee Harvey (@AyeThatsLee) September 12, 2021
“It was just really concentration for real, keeping my eyes on the ball throughout the whole play,” Johnson said. “Taking the lead at that was nice. We just talked about somebody had to make a play and I just stepped up.”
The combination of the difficulty level of the play and seemingly having overcome the demons he battled last season has Johnson poised to move forward with what had been considered a rapidly rising career trajectory.
“He’s a guy that is an incredible talent,” Roethlisberger said. “His ball skills are through the roof.”
Johnson won’t have to return to Orchard Park any time soon, but he hopes he can move forward after a strong start to his 2021.
“It was a big game for me to come back and bounce back from last year. I was able to do that, make my plays and whatnot and help the team win. That’s what I’m happy about.”