All 91 is a Pittsburgh Steelers Now series profiling each of the 91 members of the Steelers 2019 training camp roster.
18 • Diontae Johnson, rookie wide receiver
Last year: Played in 13 games as a junior with Toledo, helping the Rockets to a fifth consecutive bowl berth. Entered the NFL draft a year early and the Steelers selected him the third-round pick that they received as part of the Antonio Brown trade.
Stats: As a junior with Toledo, Johnson caught 49 passes for 761 yards and eight touchdowns. He had his best statistical season as a sophomore in 2017, when he grabbed 74 passes for 1,278 yards.
Also returned kicks and punts, scoring one touchdown on each type of return over the each of the last two seasons.
Was named the 2018 MAC Special Teams Player of the Year and was a first-ream all-conference selection as both a wide receiver and a kick returner.
Camp outlook: The Steelers have high expectations for Johnson, who has drawn comparisons to Brown, another mid-round receiver out of the MAC.
But they tempered those expectations by surrounding him with enough talent that the team doesn’t need immediate production. The Steelers brought in Donte Moncrief and re-signed Eli Rogers to go along with Ryan Switzer and James Washington, putting Johnson firmly sixth in the pecking order at the outset of camp.
He can make a run up that order with a strong camp, but a more likely scenario is a gradual phasing in over the course of the season.
He’ll also compete with Switzer to be the team’s primary punt and/or kick returner, and with Switzer in line for a greater share of offensive duties, that seems like a battle Johnson could win with solid performances in the preseason.
Projected role: Has the ability to play inside and outside, giving the Steelers a versatile weapon that they can build a package of plays around, if they so choose to.
His athleticism, quickness and route-running will give Steelers fans some flashes of the future this season, but a full-time role is probably a year away.
Steelers to Host ex-Vikings OT Aviante Collins for Visit
The Steelers will host free agent tackle Aviante Collins for a visit, according to the NFL transactions page for Thursday.
Collins, 27, spent the last four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings after joining the team as an undrafted free agent out of TCU in 2017.
Collins played in three games in 2017 and two in 2019 for the Vikings, and spent all of the 2020 season on the practice squad, except for a one-week elevation in Week 11, in which he did not play.
The 6-foot-4, 292-pound tackle its a free agent after the Vikings decided to allow his practice squad contract to expire at the end of the season.
The Steelers have several free agents at the tackle position, including longtime starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, 2019 starting right tackle Matt Feiler and 2020 starting right tackle Zach Banner, who are unrestricted free agents, and backup Jerald Hawkins, who is a restricted free agent.
The Steelers have Chukwuma Okorafor under contract and Anthony Coyle, Jarron Jones, John Leglue and Brandon Walton signed to futures contract.
Steelers, Zach Banner Donate to Tree of Life Synagogue
Offensive lineman Zach Banner and the Pittsburgh Steelers have pledged a donation to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill as part of the Steelers 2020 Social Justice Grant program.
The congregation was attacked during a mass shooting own Oct. 27, 2018 that killed 11 people and wounded six others, the deadliest attack ever on a Jewish community in the United States.
The shooting stuck with Banner, who was a rookie on the team at the time. After Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson made an anti-semitic post on social media, Banner responded with a video post.
“We need to understand that Jewish people deal with the same amount of hate and similar hardships and hard times,” Banner said in the video. “I want to preach to the Black and brown community that we need to uplift them and put our arms around them just as much when we talk about Black Lives Matter and talk about elevating ourselves.”
This video is to transition from the incident, and move forward as a community. Not to harp on @DeSeanJackson10 mistake, but to progress by educating ourselves. We can’t move forward while allowing ourselves to leave another minority race in the dark.#Equality pic.twitter.com/MnLnCCYzQL
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) July 8, 2020
The video led to Banner becoming something of a fan favorite to the Jewish community.
“Mr. Banner spoke up when others didn’t and we appreciate that,” Barb Feige, executive director of Tree of Life, said to Steelers.com “The fact that he mentioned Tree of Life and the horrific shooting that happened there and how much it impacted him was very meaningful. We are very aware the shooting had an impact beyond our congregation, our Jewish community. The ripple effect was felt. Everybody felt something about it. For Mr. Banner to articulate that, and join our fight against anti-Semitism, was very, very special, very meaningful.”
Report: Steelers to Interview Los Angeles Chargers QB Coach Pep Hamilton
The Steelers have requested to interview Los Angeles Chargers quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton for their vacant offensive coordinator position, according to a report by Josina Anderson.
Hamilton, 46, just finished his first season as quarterbacks coach with the Chargers, where he helped develop rookie quarterback Justin Hebert, who was named the PFWA NFL Rookie of the Year.
Hamilton has previously been an offensive coordinator at the NFL level with the Indianapolis Colts from 2013-15, where he led a resurgence around quarterback Andrew Luck.
Hamilton was the head coach of the DC Defenders of the XFL in 2020, the assistant head coach and passing game coordinator for Michigan in 2017-18 and was assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2016. He has also been an NFL assistant with the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears.
Hamilton is the third person confirmed to have interviewed for the position, along with former Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders head coach Hue Jackson and Steelers quarterbacks coach Matt Canada, who is expected to earn the position.