Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson had a stellar rookie campaign and was one of the lone bright spots of a lackluster offense in 2019.
His productive debut is even more impressive when you consider that he performed the way he did all while hampered by an injury.
Speaking with reporters on a conference call Wednesday, Johnson revealed that he played the majority of last season battling a sports hernia, originally suffered Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. Johnson underwent surgery to repair the injury in February, and says he is close to being fully cleared.
“I was running, and I felt like my groin was getting a little tight on me,” said Johnson. “I am doing rehab down here in Florida. Doing a lot of core exercises on the Pilates machine. That has helped me a lot. Hopefully I am going to get clear in the next couple of days. I am staying on top of that. Making sure it’s healthy and I come back ready.”
While quarantining in Florida, the Toledo-product has been working on his game, getting healthy and staying ready for whenever football can return.
“I am working on catching the ball, having strong hands,” said Johnson. “Working on getting my routes better, more tuned up. I have plenty of stuff to work on. Not just those two. I am working on my game all around. This pandemic has been crazy. I have been just staying to myself, still getting in the work. I am getting through it. The rest of the guys on the team are doing the same thing as well. I am just staying out of the way and staying ready.”
Johnson also added that he has been building on his relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. After seeing limited action together last season as a result of Roethlisberger’s injury, the two have been working out this offseason.
“It’s crazy. It’s Big Ben,” said Johnson. “He’s great. Just being able to work out with him this offseason has been good. Just getting the timing down, get a feel for him, what he likes, what he doesn’t like. How he likes to throw the ball on a certain play, certain routes. Just trying to pick his brain. I might go back up there next week and work out with him again. Just getting that timing down and get a bond with each other so we can build that trust.”
It appears their rapport building is off to a good start, and it has Johnson excited.
“It’s building that trust with one another,” he said. “I talk to him almost every day now. That’s my guy. We’ve got things to do this year and we are trying to win the Super Bowl together.”
Johnson was a pleasant surprise for the Steelers in 2019, catching 59 passes for 680 yards and five touchdowns. He was also named Second-Team All-Pro as a punt return. Johnson averaged 12.4 yards per return and housed one Week 14 against the Arizona Cardinals.
A fully-healthy Johnson looks primed for a breakout season in 2020, and he plans on doing just that.
“The ultimate goal is to win a championship. My goal is to have at least 1,000 yards and the Pro Bowl. I also want to be an All-Pro punt returner.”
Steelers QB Josh Dobbs Working with NASA for 2nd Straight Year
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Josh Dobbs is joining the NASA Kennedy Space Flight Center for the second straight offseason.
The collaboration is a part of the NFLPA’s virtual Externship program, which provides players with professional development experiences to prepare them for their careers after football.
Dobbs is part of an exclusive group of just 52 players participating in the program. His placement with NASA will last through the end of March.
“We believe that this year’s virtual Externship experience will provide our player members with a unique opportunity to broaden their knowledge, skillset and network in new, innovative ways that will serve them well during life after football,” NFLPA Player Manager Connor Ford said.
Dobbs’ mental acumen is well-documented, as the quarterback left the University of Tennessee with a degree in aerospace engineering in 2017.
Steelers RB Trey Edmunds Shares Love of Reading with Local Students
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Trey Edmunds has been a lifelong lover of reading, a passion he shared with local students on Tuesday’s celebration of Read Across America Day.
Edmunds joined students at Pittsburgh Faison for a virtual assembly and read New York Times best seller, What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada.
“I am blessed and humbled to be amongst you guys today and to represent another part of the community and be able to read to you,” Edmunds told Steelers.com. “I am so happy to be here today. What I do want to say is I was in some of the same positions as you guys. I grew up listening to people come back and read to me. Some of those same people I have been in contact with many years later. Some of those same things they have read to me, I have had the privilege of reading to some of the people I mentor, some of the young people in my life, whether it’s cousins, nephews. I am extremely happy today.”
Edmunds also surprised the student with a copy of his own book My Brother’s Keeper – What This Means to Me…, written alongside with his brothers Terrell and Tremaine. Terrell is a safety for Pittsburgh, while Tremaine is a standout linebacker for the Buffalo Bills.
Edmunds’ love of reading came from his mother Felicia, who as an educator, always championed the important of the skill.
“My mother is an elementary school teacher, so she had me doing all of that stuff when I was in high school, college, as a matter of fact I have to go to her school to read for the month of March,” he told Steelers.com. “It keeps me on my toes, attentive. I am a big reader myself, so when I get the opportunity to read to kids, I like that type of interaction.”
Should Steelers Sign Zach Banner to be Starter in 2021?
Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault.
He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.
Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.
Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. With Banner expected to be ready for a return next season, should the Steelers sign the 27-year-old with the anticipation that he could be a key piece to bolster the offensive line that was missing during the 2020 season?
Best exit interview ever… Back to work…
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) January 14, 2021
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