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NFL.com believes Diontae Johnson can be a first-time Pro Bowler in 2021


(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)


NFL.com released an article today that featured one potential first-time Pro Bowler from each AFC Team, and for the Steelers third-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson was selected.


"Questions hover around Pittsburgh's offense. The line looks iffy, and it's unclear what's left of Ben Roethlisberger," Marc Sessler of NFL.com wrote. "The Browns fan in me tends to believe the following: The Steelers will figure it out. They always do. Besides, only a fool would ignore the weaponry. Electric wideout Chase Claypool and rookie runner Najee Harris are spicy Pro Bowl possibilities. I'm banking on Johnson, though, to reduce his frustrating drops and lean on his next-level ability to get open downfield. This is a special athlete with the skills to crack secondaries like an egg."


Sessler is spot-on when it comes Johnson's knack to get open, as he's by far the best route-runner on the Steelers. According to Pro Football Focus, over Johnson's first two seasons in the league, he has been charted as open on 46% and 48% of his targets — that is 6-8 percentage points higher than the league average.


Diontae Johnson had 88 receptions for 923 yards (10.5 average) and seven touchdowns last season, along with being targeted a team-high 144 times. So, Johnson had a productive year in 2020, but he was hindered by drops, leading the league in drops with 16.


According to Sports Info Solutions, 14 of Johnson's drops were within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Johnson managed to improve when it came to catching the ball late in the year after being benched by Mike Tomlin for most of the first half against the Bills in Week 14 after two drops, but the drops were still a blemish on his 2020 campaign.


Johnson is looking to bounce back in 2021 and attributes his drops last year as being an issue of focus. To help combat that issue he's been working on catching smaller objects this offseason.


"I have been working on everything," Johnson said at minicamp. "You can't focus on one specific thing. Yeah, I had drops last year but that comes with focus and stuff like that. Just having confidence in myself. I have been believing in myself every time and knowing every time that ball comes my way, I am going to make that catch.


"I have been catching on my tennis ball machine I bought this offseason. It's a smaller target so you have to focus on the ball. It's not a big object coming at you. Now when I catch a football, it's always been easy to me, but it's that focus and keeping it.


"Taking your eye off the ball that one split second. That is the main thing. Focus. I have been focusing on catch first, run second."


If Johnson can put the drop issues in the past and build off his 2020 production this year, being nominated to the Pro Bowl in 2021 could come to fruition.