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PFF Expects Devin Bush, Diontae Johnson to Breakout in Third Year



Steelers LB Devin Bush

Pro Football Focus is expecting big things from Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush and wide receiver Diontae Johnson, identifying both as breakout candidates in their third season.

Even though he is coming off a torn ACL, PFF’s Sam Monson is projecting a healthy Bush to make a significant leap as he continues to imbed himself in the Steelers’ scheme.

“There is no doubting Bush’s talent, but 278 snaps in an injury-shortened campaign in 2020 did little to show any improvement over that rookie season,” Monson wrote. “A pronounced step forward within the scheme this year could result in Bush’s down-to-down consistency and production meeting his highlight-making skills.”

While he made plenty of splash plays before the season-ending knee injury, Bush graded about the same as he did in his rookie year by PFF’s metrics.

“You could certainly argue that Devin Bush hit the ground running in the NFL and that his absence last season highlighted how good he already is,” Monson wrote. “But the Steelers ask a lot from their linebackers, and his PFF grade hasn’t caught up with the ability he showed during his rookie season.”

He totaled 26 tackles, three pass breakups and a sack in five games a season ago.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) trains at Heinz Field during the Steelers 2020 Training Camp, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020 in Pittsburgh, PA. (Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers)

As for Johnson, Monson expects him to have a huge year of his own in Pittsburgh’s redesigned passing game, that is if he can eliminate the drops that plagued him last season.

“Johnson gets open as well as any receiver in the NFL, which is a great starting point for success. Over his first two seasons in the league, he has been charted as open on 46% and 48% of his targets — that is 6-8 percentage points higher than the league average. If Ben Roethlisberger can improve on an unconvincing 2020 season and give the Steelers passing game some more teeth, Johnson will be open and looking for targets,” Monson writes. “His numbers last season should have been significantly better — a league-leading 14 drops left a lot of meat on the bone. But drops are a volatile data point that come and go by season, and Johnson is unlikely to be burned as badly in that area going forward.”

Johnson caught 88 passes for 923 yards, which led the team, and seven touchdowns in 2020.