Diontae Johnson and his non-effort on the Jaylen Warren fumble continue to be a national topic out of the Steelers’ 16-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. The heat on Johnson comes mainly from the report that leaked on Saturday about his ‘heated argument’ with Minkah Fitzpatrick, and now, the lack of effort he appeared to show on Warren’s first-quarter fumble.
After the game, Diontae Johnson addressed the play. He said he did not see what happened in the play, and that is why it appeared he was lollygagging while the scrum ensued for the loose 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.”
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.
“(The officials) were definitive and I lost vision of it,” Tomlin said. “There were people between me and him. I couldn’t count steps. They didn’t give another look at it in the stadium and we didn’t get a quick enough look at it up top. Sometimes, that happens when you’re on the road. Some games, it’s on the road, sometimes it’s at home — it evens out in the big scheme of things.”
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 be the topic of conversation for plenty of time the following week.
As most receivers would, Johnson also asserted that he caught the ball and established control, but he said he needs to secure the ball and take that decision out of the referee’s hands.
“Well, you know, I had it,” he said. “It is what it is. I had two hands on the ball. I gotta hold onto the ball.”
Former NFL referee and current CBS Sports NFL rules analyst Gene Steratore said that he believes Johnson’s catch should have been ruled a touchdown and that it would have been overturned on replay review.