Steelers’ Diontae Johnson reveals unique drill used to fix drops problem

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Some bumps (and potholes) slowed his progress down, but Diontae Johnson is finally emerging as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ No. 1 receiver.

Though Johnson is on a team that’s flush with receiving talent — and, as such, Ben Roethlisberger spreads the ball around — he leads the team in targets (49). His 415 yards are second only to Chase Claypool’s 421 (both missed one game this season). If Johnson keeps up the pace, he’ll more than double the 923 yards contributed in 2020.

The bond that Roethlisberger and Johnson have created shows on the field and in the stats. Roethlisberger is at his best when targeting the third-year receiver. On Monday, NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkabwala tweeted that Roethlisberger’s passer rating is highest (97.2) when the ball is sent Johnson’s way.

It’s a vast improvement over last season. Though dropped passes are a subjective and unofficial stat, Johnson committed a league-leading 10-16 (depending on the source), which forced Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin to bench him in Week 14.

Drops have been non-existent for Johnson so far this season — through four games (he missed Week 3 with a knee injury), Johnson has zero.

How did Johnson cure dropitis? During minicamp this summer, Johnson revealed he was using a tennis ball machine for catching drills.

“It’s a smaller target, so you have to really focus on the ball and the object coming at you,” Johnson said (per Pittsburgh Tribune’s Joe Rutter). “That’s what I’ve been honing on to. Now, when I catch the football, it’s easy.

“It’s always been easy to me, but it’s keeping that focus and that confidence.”

It couldn’t come at a better time. Veteran receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s season is done, so Johnson will need all the focus and confidence he can muster to help keep the offense on track.

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