It was a rather difficult day overall for some of the offensive weapons of the Pittsburgh Steelers, namely star receiver Diontae Johnson and third-year wideout Chase Claypool in the 24-20 loss to the New York Jets Sunday at Acrisure Stadium, dropping the Steelers to 1-3.
Throughout the game, Johnson struggled to make plays, including the back of the end zone play in which he appeared to get his feet down before the Steelers’ challenge failed. Prior to that play, Johnson had a pass from Mitch Trubisky skip off of his fingertips and result in an interception.
Same for Claypool, who couldn’t come down with the first throw of Kenny Pickett’s career on the deep shot early in the third quarter, resulting in an interception. Tight end Pat Freiermuth also isn’t absolved of blame, as Pickett’s pass in the fourth quarter bounced off his hands and went for the game-changing interception.
For a group of pass catchers that are so supremely talented and bring quite a few strengths to the table, they’ve struggled to make plays in recent weeks. Speaking with reporters Monday from the locker room UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side, Johnson stated that while the quarterback decision regarding Pickett or Trubisky moving forward is out of his hands, it’s up to playmakers like him to go out and make plays to make the quarterback look good, period, according to video via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Chris Adamski.
“As long as we go out there, we know our assignment and the quarterback knows what he’s doing, and everybody’s doing their job as one, it is our job as receivers to go out there and make the quarterback look good.”no matter if it’s Kenny or Mitch,” Johnson stated, according to video via Adamski. “That’s our job, bottom line. That’s something we gotta continue to do.
“We gotta make more plays down the field, or in general, to keep that spark and not have the defense on the field as much. Just try to help them out.”
Early on in the season it was guys like Johnson and Claypool making major plays for Trubisky under center. That’s fallen off in recent weeks, including some big drops on the road in Cleveland in Week 3, then the tipped passes at home against the Jets that resulted in interceptions.
For as talented as this group is, at least on paper, the return on investment is hit or miss right now. Johnson, for what it’s worth, remains a No. 1-caliber receiver due to his route running and overall ability to get open. He had a bad game Sunday. But he’ll bounce back. The drops are becoming an issue again though, which he’ll need to refocus on and clean up.
As for Claypool, he’s consistently struggling to high-point the football and make contested catches, which is what he was drafted to do. He reportedly took blame for the interception immediately on the sideline to Pickett, according to CBS sideline reporter AJ Ross on the broadcast, which is fine.
At some point he has to start making those types of plays, underthrown or not.