Tim Benz: Steelers draft Antonio Brown clone. On the field anyway. | TribLIVE.com
Tim Benz, Columnist

Tim Benz: Steelers draft Antonio Brown clone. On the field anyway.

Tim Benz
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Toledo wide receiver Diontae Johnson runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine, Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) AP Photo
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Toledo wide receiver Diontae Johnson (3) scores against Miami on a 40-yard pass play during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Toledo, Ohio. Miami defeated Toledo 49-24. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

The Steelers selected a clone of Antonio Brown with their second pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

And they did it with the pick they got in exchange for Brown from Oakland in the trade that shipped him to the Raiders last month.

Let’s hope the comparisons stop with physical build and on-field performance.

I’m pretty sure Pittsburgh could do without any similarities off the field.

His name his Diontae Johnson. He’s a 5-foot-11, 183-pound wide receiver from a Mid-American Conference school (Toledo) with return talents and the ability to play in the slot or outside the numbers. He has the reputation for playing much faster than his 4.53 40-yard dash time.

Steelers wide receiver coach Darryl Drake said Johnson is “the most natural catcher that I’ve seen in a while” and “really, really good against press.”

He went on to say Johnson is “very elusive at the line of scrimmage,” “gets off bump” and “gets in and out of his breaks as well as anybody I’ve seen in a long time.”

Remind you of anyone else who was almost exactly the same height (5’10”) and weight (181) from a Mid-American Conference school (Central Michigan)?

“Antonio Brown,” said Johnson, willing to acknowledge the obvious similarities when asked about the comp. “He’s a great receiver. One of the guys I look up to in the league.”

Do you want a less biased opinion than that of the wide receiver coach who just drafted him?

Fair enough. Here is Lance Zierlein’s scouting report at NFL.com.

Stop me if any of this sounds familiar to Brown.

*Big-time playmaking potential

*Touchdowns of 80 (receiving), 83 (punt return) and 98 (kick return) in 2018

*Has “look out!” talent with the ball in his hands

*Twitchy mover from whistle to whistle

Ok, you haven’t stopped me yet.

*Early acceleration creates early route leads

*Plays with toughness and fights for his leverage in the route

*Electric feet for sharp route cuts

*Agile and sudden to slide easily around press

“Winning at the line of scrimmage,” Johnson said of his greatest strength. “Catching the ball in traffic. I can run any route in the route tree.

“Being able to know how to adjust on certain coverages. Knowing when to stop and do counter moves. That’s what I take pride in.”

Sounds like he has some of Brown’s confidence, too.

Even some of his perceived minuses look familiar.

*Needs to trust the route.

*Tends to freelance and can throw timing of the route off

You get the point.

To be balanced, some of the negatives Zierlein points out in his game deviate from noted positives of Brown’s game.

*Play strength is below average

*Contested catches could be a problem for him at the next level

*Focus drops are an issue for him

*Has issues pulling in balls outside his frame. Doesn’t play with sudden hands.

Assuming that Johnson will replicate Brown’s soon-to-be Hall of Fame career is premature. It would even be unfair to demand he pan out as well as Zierlein’s ironic choice of an NFL comparison—Emmanuel Sanders.

Yeah, that Emmanuel Sanders. Brown’s former teammate and occasional nemesis.

But Drake didn’t pump the brakes when asked if Johnson’s traits could be in the mold of those two Pro Bowlers.

“As far as a player? Yes. No question,” Drake said when asked if he saw characteristics of those two pass-catchers in Johnson’s skill set.

“He’s very talented,” Drake continued. “A very gifted player. The film doesn’t lie. It tells you what you need.”

Want the cosmos to align a little more? Johnson’s selection in Nashville was announced by Steelers Super Bowl hero wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Brown was selected in the sixth round of the 2010 draft as part of the trade that sent Holmes to the New York Jets.

So there you have it. Done deal. Let’s just skip the next seven or eight years and put Johnson in Canton now.

And let’s fast-forward beyond any blonde mustaches and midnight treadmill rants in the process.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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