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.”
Bill Cowher Reveals He and His Wife Recovered from COVID-19
Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher and his wife Veronica have and recovered from COVID-19, the future Hall of Fame told Ed Bouchette of The Athletic.
While not diagnosed at the time, the couple experienced symptoms back in March following a trip to Hawaii, and tested positive for the virus antibodies in April.
According to Bouchette’s story, Cowher first knew something was wrong when he was unable to smell flowers he had purchased from a florist, and could not taste his wife’s cooking. Cowher also said he experienced shaky joints and a fever, while Veronica had a cough.
Cowher also shared his thoughts on the NFL season going forward, and if he thinks the league will be able to start up without a hitch. He seems skeptical.
“I don’t know,” Cowher said via Pro Football Talk. “No. 1, the players have to feel comfortable with whatever they come up with from a testing standpoint, from a protocol standpoint. I totally understand the reluctance. Even though they say young people aren’t getting it, you also have people who have asthma, people who have underlying conditions in their families — they’re going back to their homes with parents who may now be elderly. It’s not like you can isolate yourself from everybody, particularly during a season that’s five months long. . . . I still think we have a long way to go.”
Cowher added that players needed to be respected with regard to how they choose to handle the virus personally, including if they decided to skip the 2020 season entirely.
“It’s going to come down to the league and the NFLPA feeling comfortable moving forward, and even within that, if they come up with a set of guidelines, and now a player who doesn’t feel comfortable, he may not want to be part of it. It affects people differently not only from a physical standpoint but from a mental standpoint. . . . I think we have to respect that.”
A Super Bowl champion in 2005, Cowher spent his entire 15-year head coaching career with the Steelers. His 149 wins are top-20 in NFL history.
Cowher has worked as an analyst for The NFL Today on CBS since 2007.
The legendary coach was supposed to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August, but the ceremony and festivities were moved to the summer of 2021 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
Lawrence Timmons Donating $500,000 to High School Alma Mater
Former Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons is giving back to the next generation of football players at his high school alma mater.
Timmons donated $500,000 to Wilson High School in Florence, South Carolina to remodel their stadium. The renovation process is expected to get underway in September.
“All of these upgraded facilities, around the school and athletic complex, give students a renewed pride in their school. I’m glad to play a part in that,” Timmons told Clint Buckley of 247 Sports.
The renovation plan for Tiger Stadium includes a new track, additional seating and an updated, brick entrance to the complex.
“I am very appreciative of Mr. Timmons’ contribution,” said Eric Robinson, Wilson’s principal. “This just goes to show that he remembers where he came from and that he will always be a Tiger. I am excited to see what everything looks like when it is done. Our students and our alumni deserve the best. I think this will motivate them to be even better on the field.”
A 2003 graduate of Wilson, Timmons played linebacker and tight end, posting 150 tackles and two sacks along with 47 receptions for 800 yards and five touchdowns as a senior.
Trading Florence for Tallahassee, he earned All-ACC honors behind 79 tackles and 18 tackles-for-loss in his final season with the Florida State Seminoles.
Timmons was selected 15th-overall by the Steelers in the 2007 NFL Draft. He spent ten seasons in Pittsburgh, earning both a Pro Bowl appearance and Second-Team All-Pro during his stellar 2014 season. He won Super Bowl XLIII with the Steelers over the Arizona Cardinals in 2009.
Timmons recorded 983 tackles, 35.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles and 12 interceptions over his Steeler career.
Timmons has been out of the NFL since being released after a single season with the Miami Dolphins in 2018.
Still, it is great to see Timmons staying close to the game by giving back to the place that gave him his football start.
T.J. Watt Named Top Edge Rusher in NFL by CBS Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt has been named the NFL’s top edge rusher by Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports.
One of the most loaded position groups in the NFL, Watt beat out some elite talents to claim the top spot, including the Browns’ Myles Garrett, the Saints’ Cameron Jordan and the Bears’ Khalil Mack.
Top 10 Edge Rushers in the NFL— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) June 24, 2020
(According to @ryanwilsonCBS)
1. T.J. Watt
2. Myles Garrett
3. Chandler Jones
4. Cameron Jordan
5. Joey Bosa
6. Shaquil Barrett
7. Danielle Hunter
8. Za'Darius Smith
9. Khalil Mack
10. Nick Bosa pic.twitter.com/TGd621tshy
Watt was a force to be reckoned with in his third season out of Wisconsin, earning First-Team All-Pro honors and finishing third in NFL Defensive Player of the Year Voting.
No. 90 had 14.5 sacks and 14 tackles-for-loss in 2019, while intercepting two passes and forcing a league-leading eight fumbles.
Watt’s production last season helped the Steelers defense turn into one of the NFL’s best, finishing the year ranked first in sacks (54) and turnovers (38). Neither Watt or his supporting cast show any signs of slowing down in 2020z
The next challenge for Watt and the Steelers is finding a way to come to a long-term contract extension, keeping the stud edge rusher in Pittsburgh for years to come.