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Mike Tomlin Sounds Off on Diontae Johnson’s Lack of Effort: ‘He Needs to Answer’



Steelers WR Diontae Johnson
Steelers WR Diontae Johnson against the Cincinnati Bengals, Nov. 26, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH and CINCINNATI — Diontae Johnson has gone viral for his lack of effort on Jaylen Warren’s first-quarter fumble against the Cincinnati Bengals. It became a national topic from the Steelers’ 16-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. The heat on Johnson is justified. But he shrugged it off following their win on Sunday, saying he never saw the ball.

No, I just didn’t see it,” Johnson said. “I was just doing what I was doing — blocking or whatever.”

Former players on social media blasted Johnson, though. Former NFL linebacker Will Compton said Johnson’s play was a ‘loser mentality.’ But Johnson took to social media after the game, exclaiming that ‘we won, that’s all that matters,’ and while that did not just refer to that play, it is one of the plays that landed Johnson in some hot water. But now, former NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe took to his podcast to talk about it.

“Diontae Johnson, bro, you drop a touchdown, and then you walk off the ball, the ball is fumbled, and you do nothing? Man, hell no! Walking off the ball,” Sharpe said on his Nigthcap show. “It’s a bad look because you’re complaining about the ball, you dropped the touchdown on the play before, and then ou walk off the ball, ok, walking off the ball is bad enough, but then the ball popped out and you don’t even chase. You can’t do that.”

On Tuesday, Mike Tomlin detailed his thoughts on it for the first time since it happened. He did not appear happy with either part of the play, but more importantly, he would not color in the lines on anything more than the fact that Johnson absolutely ‘had to answer for it’ to his teammates and the media.

Steelers WR Diontae Johnson

Steelers WR Diontae Johnson against the Cincinnati Bengals, Nov. 26, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

“Diontae can’t let the emotions of the previous down affect his next down,” Tomlin said. “But I’ll give him an opportunity to address that with [media]. I’ll give him an opportunity to address that with his teammates. I’m not going to add any additional color. I think plays like that are best described and outlined in those involved, and less so by guys like me. I keep my attention on challenging things that await us this week. Schematic preparation for Arizona and the readiness of this group. It’s something that he needs to answer for, and so I’ll give him an opportunity to do that. His teammates will give him an opportunity to do that.”

That play came directly after the play where the Steelers may have caught a touchdown, but the refs did not see it, and Mike Tomlin did not challenge it. Johnson believed he had ‘three feet’ in front of him on the play, but it never mattered, as Tomlin said he never got a good enough look to challenge the play.

It should noted that Johnson was adamant towards his sideline on that play, and the Warren fumble came the play directly after that. The Steelers out-gained the Bengals 421-222, and the clubs were even in turnovers, but the Steelers’ sudden inefficiency in the red zone was an issue for them all day. That touchdown would have boosted it, but Johnson’s effort will continue to be a dominant topic.