Game of inches

The point of emphasis for the Steelers' offense this week is finishing promising drives when opportunities arise, especially when they get into the red zone, but for offensive coordinator Matt Canada it's less complicated than all of that.

"Scoring touchdowns is the point of emphasis," Canada announced today. "We have to score touchdowns and there's no running away from that."

For wide receiver Diontae Johnson, it's all about his toes.

Three times over the last two games Johnson has come within inches of making a spectacular catch on plays that ultimately resulted in incomplete passes due to Johnson's inability to get his second foot down inbounds while coming down with the ball.

"I just gotta make those big plays," Johnson maintained. "I'm motivated to keep getting better and I want to get better so I'm gonna keep improving."

The first near miss occurred on second-and-8 from the Jets' 23-yard line on Oct. 2 at Acrisure Stadium.

The Steelers felt confident enough Johnson had completed the catch on quarterback Mitch Trubisky's throw into the back of the end zone that they challenged the call, but the incomplete ruling was upheld and the Steelers ultimately settled for a field goal.

The second was actually ruled a catch initially and then changed to an incompletion after Johnson seemingly came down with a toe-tap reception at the Bills' 2 on third-and-8 from the Bills' 11 in the first quarter last Sunday in Buffalo.

After that came a pass that almost resulted in a toe-tap touchdown on second-and-9 from the Buffalo 19 in the second quarter.


"I'm just so hard on myself I want to come down with the catch, so it is reasonable," Johnson insisted. "It's an expectation for me so I gotta make those plays and I wanna make those and I will.

"Those three catches, 100 percent, yeah, 100 percent."

The Steelers ended up 0-for-4 on red zone opportunities in their 38-3 loss last Sunday at Buffalo.

Their 46.2 success rate in the red zone (six touchdowns in 13 opportunities) ranks 25th in the NFL through five games.

Johnson is adamant quarterback Kenny Pickett just needs to keep putting the ball where he did in the Bills game and if Pickett does, "I'm gonna come down with it, 100 percent."

Canada anticipates nothing less.

"The expectation is he has to make it," Canada said of such catches. "But I don't mean that in a negative way. Diontae is our No. 1 receiver. He makes big plays. We know he'll make them. He's made them in the past.

"Obviously, I guess it was the Bengals game, right? He had that tremendous catch on the sideline, so it's not like we don't know that Diontae can make catches and all of our guys can make catches.

"We all gotta be that much better, and that's where we're at. There's no fear, there's no doubt in where we're at with anybody. We just have to make those plays at the right time. We gotta continue to coach 'em and push 'em and we all gotta do a little bit better to get that right, to get the results that we all need and want."

Pickett knows they've been close, and that better is expected and necessary.

"There were times in the Jets game, times in this game (against the Bills) where we were so close to being inbounds, but so close doesn't, obviously, mean anything," Pickett acknowledged. "We've got to hit those and connect. I've got to get better at ball placement. 'Tae' (Johnson) will do his job, (wide receiver) George (Pickens), (wide receiver) Chase (Claypool), we've got guys that can make great plays.

" Putting them in position, I've got to handle my job."