Week 8 featured a tilting of the scales back in WR Diontae Johnson’s favor in the Pittsburgh wide receiver room, with the fifth-year veteran racking up a team-high 14 targets on a rainy day against the Jaguars. That’s 8 more targets than any other Pittsburgh pass catcher on the day, with Connor Heyward earning the next-most targets in the game with six. Johnson was far and away the clear favorite target of both Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky, the former of which picked up an injury midway through the game, and if history tells us anything, it’s that this trend of Johnson dominating the target share could continue despite the appeal of Pickens in the passing game.
Johnson demonstrated this past Sunday that when he’s fully healthy, he’s one of the top target-earning receivers in the league. There was plenty of evidence of that last season, as well, when Johnson totaled 147 targets in 2022 but failed to score a touchdown after averaging 7.5 per season the two years before that. That was with the same two QBs under center last year as this year for varying stretches of time, of course, but his split compared to George Pickens’ with Mitch Trubisky under center is eye-opening.
In five games where Trubisky started the majority of the team’s snaps for the game (Weeks 1-3 & Weeks 14-15), Johnson paced George Pickens in both target share and air yards share by a large margin. Johnson’s 32.1% target share in those five games was light years ahead of George Pickens’ 12.8% in that same span of time, and his 18.4 expected fantasy points per game ranked 9th among all WRs in that span, as well.
It also might not be coincidence or a bad idea to note that Diontae Johnson had his five highest scoring outputs in those five games with Trubisky under center in 2022, scoring no less than 12.5 points in each contest. The Steelers have a few tough matchups on tap over the next few weeks, but Johnson should be able to remain dependable even with his upside limited.