PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are making a change at wide receiver.
After coming off the bench in the team’s first two games, rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson expects to start for the Steelers’ Week 3 game against the San Francisco 49ers.
In the first two games, Johnson hauled in four passes for 42 yards, including a spectacular one-handed catch against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2.
Diontae Johnson deserves to be the WR3 going forward. This catch made me jump out of my chair while watching it live. Incredible catch. pic.twitter.com/x0GwDzY4b3
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) September 20, 2019
Now, with veteran free-agent signing Donte Moncrief struggling with a finger issue that has led to four drops in two games, Johnson is being elevated to a starting role.
“I’m just trying to do what I can, now that I’m getting the offense right now and starting,” Johnson said after practice on Friday. “Just trying to continue to show the coaches that I know what I’m doing and getting ready for Sunday.”
In fact, he credited Moncrief as a player that has helped ease his transition as a third-round rookie out of Toledo into the NFL.
“It’s just learning from ‘Crief a lot and the rest of the guys — pick their brains and whatnot — because they played a lot more than me,” Johnson said. “I’m just seeing what they say and that down on the field and apply that to my game.”
Johnson also received his first action on punt returns last week, spelling Ryan Switzer. Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said it’s all part of the progression for a young player making the transition to the NFL.
“Those young guys, you start to see it develop in this last week,” Fichtner said Thursday. “He went out for a punt return. … You start to see the growth of a young player. He made a nice play last week and he is growing as a player. I am encouraged and excited by him.”
Another part of that process is not overburdening the young player with more than he needs to know. When asked what the coaches said he’s done to earn their trust, Johnson was frank.
“That didn’t say nothing,” he said. “They just put me in there and told me I’m the starter from here on out. I just got to keep executing and making plays to help the team win.”