Diontae Johnson impressing Steelers with his skills, frustrating them with his injuries
It was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round pick who most impressed during their first preseason game.
Will their second pick from this year’s draft shine in their second game?
Like first-rounder Devin Bush did in his NFL preseason debut last week, Diontae Johnson has mostly wowed teammates and coaches with his talents. But for Johnson, that’s only happened when he’s taken part in training-camp practices at Saint Vincent.
That participation has been far from a daily occurrence, mostly because of a groin injury. And Johnson, the quick and shifty receiver who was taken near the top of the third round out of Toledo, also missed much of summer organized team activities because of injury.
“You’d like to see him on the field,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, “because then you can kind of see what he can and can’t do.”
The rest of the organization and Steelers fans likely second that notion. Everyone could get what they wish for Saturday night when the Steelers host the Kansas City Chiefs in preseason game No. 2.
Johnson took part in an abbreviated camp-closing practice Thursday. It was called short because of lighting and the threat of a major storm that never truly materialized, at least in Unity Township.
But Johnson’s participation Thursday marked two practices in a row. He made a handful of catches during a fully-padded workout Wednesday, including scores on each of the final two “seven shots” two-point conversion simulations.
“I hope we can get him on the field more to see what he can do,” Roethlisberger said. “Because he’s got some talent – he really does.”
— Tribune-ReviewSports (@TribSports) August 6, 2019
Johnson joins two other players among the draft class – fifth-round tight end Zach Gentry and sixth-round linebacker Sutton Smith – as rookies who are in question for Saturday’s game.
Though Gentry played and had a touchdown catch during last Friday’s opener at Heinz Field against Tampa Bay, he has an apparent chest or back injury that had him watching practice Wednesday.
Like Johnson, Smith missed last week’s game because of an undisclosed lower-body injury. Tomlin has been somewhat terse in answering questions about each of the rookies who is missing valuable reps needed to make a name for himself.
“A lot of young guys battling nagging injuries, it slows their growth and development – and it slows us to get an opportunity to get to know them,” Tomlin said. “But not anything unusual about that.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .