Diontae Johnson leads NFL in targets since Week 8, here’s why it matters


PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) — It might not seem apparent, but Steelers' second-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson has seen the largest number of targets in the league over the last three weeks.

Not only did Johnson have the most leaguewide looks over those three weeks running from Week 9 through Week 11, but it's also the former Toledo Rocket's best three-game span this year, with total yards following closely behind.

In the past three games, Johnson has been targeted 37 times, just edging out Keenan Allen with 35 of his own.

But let's up the ante a little bit because there might be some positive bellwethers to glean from this information.

Not only was this the best span of 2020 for Johnson, but it's also the best of his career.

In fact, in his rookie season, Johnson never saw double-digit targets in a game.

His highest mark last year was nine targets in Week 16 against the Jets.

Johnson turned those nine looks into eight receptions and 81 yards, his record for catches and second-best performance for yards in 2019.

But now fast forward back to 2020, Johnson has "taken the leap" to spell it out with a classic football adage.

And the increase in targets has paid dividends; there's been better production when Johnson sees more targets.

Johnson's new high in targets, receptions, and yards is 16, 12, and 116, all coming in the last three weeks.

We'll get to that more in a second.

Yes, there have been some duds this year, like Weeks 3 and 5.

But I'm not here to talk about those.

So let's all put our rose-colored glasses back on so we can enjoy Johnson's more productive games.

Last week's (Week 11) game against Jacksonville was the highest career targets Johnson has had with 16 and his second-highest number for yards at 111.

And the two weeks before that gave Johnson 10 and 11 targets in Weeks 9 and 10, respectively.

Johnson's yards followed suit with 77 and 116 for those games.

Using the last three games as a sample size, it shows an upward trajectory for the wide receiver, and it could be caused by Ben Roethlisberger's return this season and a blooming rapport between the two.

As I mentioned earlier, with some of the lackluster games, there are still some consistency issues present, but stringing three good games together is hinting at growth.

And if it results in greater stability in the wide receiver-quarterback dynamic for Johnson and Roethlisberger as the season grinds onward, then the Steelers can get even better.

In short, there might be more trust blossoming, and Johnson is seeing the boons of having the starting quarterback in your corner.

It's worth monitoring the development as the Steelers get ready to take on the Ravens — at some point.

And maybe for Johnson, it was appropriate for him to be a Rocket in college because if the targets keep coming, then the sky is the limit.

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