Steelers Inside the Ropes: Receiver Diontae Johnson shows his skills
It wasn’t quite a day that a reasonable fan should be saying, “AB who?” — as a spectator from the Chuck Noll Field bleachers was heard saying Monday. But Diontae Johnson showed off some of the skills that compelled the Pittsburgh Steelers to spend a high third-round pick on him.
Johnson got off to a slow start at summer organized team activities, and he hadn’t distinguished himself over the first two training-camp practices.
But once the pads went on at Saint Vincent, Johnson looked better.
Monday might have been his best showing.
Johnson scored in the seven shots 2-point conversion drill, fighting his way into the end zone.
But it was later during a team drill Johnson showed what might be his trademark: his quick, put-his-feet-in-the-ground-and-cut move.
Johnson caught a short pass near the left sideline while heading toward the middle of the field.
Johnson stopped and quickly cut back toward the sidelines.
Cornerback Justin Layne — also a rookie third-round pick — had no chance, and Johnson picked up another 10 to 15 yards on the play.
Fans cheered, and one was heard yelling, “AB Who?”
Johnson was selected with the higher of the two draft picks the Steelers got as compensation from the Oakland Raiders in the offseason trade of Antonio Brown.
• The defense continued to make splash plays, intercepting two passes Monday (by Marcus Allen of Devlin Hodges, and Kameron Kelly of Ben Roethlisberger) and dropping another.
• The defense continued to show the dime package with Devin Bush the lone inside linebacker joined by defensive back Cameron Sutton playing as another. At least once, they went to a four-safety look dubbed “Two Dimes.”
• Hodges led NCAA Division I in passing yards per game last season at Samford. He throws a nice ball, but his height works against him, as do some awkward throwing mechanics. Still, Hodges showed what he can do when he completed a long pass to Diontae Spencer in a 7-on-7 drill.
• Before he left practice with a finger injury, Donte Moncrief continued his strong play. He scored on the first two snaps of seven shots, connecting with Roethlisberger while beating, first, Mike Hilton and Terrell Edmunds and, next, Steven Nelson. He later caught a long pass from Roethlisberger in an 11-on-11 situation.
• The offense appeared to win seven shots, though there was some ambiguity. Mason Rudolph’s scoring pass to James Washington should have been blown dead because of a sack. And on the final play, rookie tight end Trevor Wood caught a post route as he sprinted through the back of the end zone. He bobbled it as he ran through some padded advertising, prompting Mike Tomlin to say he did not score. General manager Kevin Colbert overruled Tomlin, though. Jokes were made about Jesse James, the former Steelers tight end who infamously had a touchdown taken away from him when he bobbled at the goal line in a game against the New England Patriots.
• The practice featured live tackling, and there were some memorable big hits. None moreso than linebacker Mark Barron on British tight end Christian Scotland-Williamson near the end of practice, a flying shoulder-on-shoulder that slammed Scotland-Williamson to the ground. Earlier, Wood steamrolled Allen after a catch over the middle.
• Scotland-Williamson had two catches and is noticeably improved from last season, when he joined the Steelers through a roster exemption from the NFL International Pathways program. Tomlin complimented Scotland-Williamson’s work after practice Monday.
• JuJu Smith-Schuster and Layne got into a tussle during a DBs/WRs drill, rolling to the ground as neither wanted to be the first to relent after a catch.
• A lighter moment came when senior defensive assistant/secondary Teryl Austin playfully batted down another pass that was intended for Smith-Schuster during the aforementioned drill. Fans and players laughed, and Austin did a faux-celebratory leaping hip-bump with Jordan Dangerfield.
— Chris Adamski
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .