Suffering from quite the rollercoaster of a season in 2019, it is somewhat impressive the Pittsburgh Steelers still have the opportunity to punch a ticket to the postseason. Losing Ben Roethlisberger to start the season took a toll. Since then, the Steelers have been plagued by underwhelming quarterback play. However, the offense has managed to stay afloat. Desperately needing a win, and a little bit of help, Pittsburgh will be hoping for another strong outing from rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson in Week 17.
Despite their Week 16 loss to the New York Jets, Johnson still turned in another impressive outing, something that has become consistent during his rookie season. According to Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric, Diontae Johnson earned a grade of 47.54, ranking him as WR5 in Week 16.
When a player earns an OSM grade of 40 or higher, it is considered an elite performance that week. Over the past three weeks, Johnson has received elite OSM grades, with Week 16 being the highest. This was primarily due to Johnson’s ability to generate separation against his defender.
Johnson has been one of the top three wide receivers in average separation from Week 14 through 16, according to the NFL’s Next-Gen Stats. In Week 16, he averaged 4.5 yards of separation, and the only two receivers ahead of him, Tyreek Hill and Hunter Renfrow, also coincided with being two of the four receivers ahead of him in OSM.
Despite the Steelers’ struggles under center, it hasn’t seemed to matter who is throwing the ball to Johnson. He will make the most of his touches. During the Week 16 loss to the Jets, the Steelers deployed a combo of QBs, Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. While Hodges started the game, two interceptions early on meant a quick hook from head coach Mike Tomlin who inserted Rudolph with 9 minutes and 20 seconds to go in the second quarter. However, Rudolph would go down with a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter, forcing the Steelers to send Hodges back in.
Even with the Steelers playing musical quarterbacks, Johnson still hauled in 8 reception for 81 yards and a touchdown. The rookie has been a crucial piece of the Steelers offensive scoring, leading the team in receiving touchdowns while also contributing with his innate ability as a punt returner. On 18 punt returns, Johnson has 224 yards and is averaging 12.4 yards per attempt, including a crucial 85-yard touchdown return in Week 14 to help defeat the Arizona Cardinals.
— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) December 11, 2019
While the Steelers missed their chance to control their playoff destiny, they still have a shot at the postseason. Pittsburgh faces the Baltimore Ravens today, who will presumably sit some starters after already clinching the AFC’s number one seed. With Rudolph down for the count and Hodges making the start, it seems the Steelers will once again need to rely on their playmakers to propel the offense, meaning they are hoping for a strong outing from Johnson in Week 17.
Is Diontae Johnson a Week 17 fantasy option?
If your fantasy league was scheduled correctly, nobody should be facing the problem of a Week 17 Championship game. However, not everyone is so lucky. Outperforming every player on his team in Week 16, Johnson led the Steelers in fantasy points and would presumably be a reliable option in Week 17 versus the coasting Ravens.
Third-year receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster returned from his four-game absence due to injury versus the Jets but was only able to catch two passes for 22 yards. It’s obvious he has not fully recovered from his knee injury, but with a playoff berth on the line, it would be surprising to not see him on the field in Week 17. This will allow Johnson to have a more significant impact as Smith-Schuster will garner some defensive attention.
While the Steelers will be focusing solely on their game, they do need some extra help from the Houston Texans. Due to Week 16’s loss, the Tennessee Titans are now the AFC’s sixth seed in the playoffs. In addition to a win against Baltimore in Week 17, the Steelers need the Texans to beat the Titans to make a postseason appearance.