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'He checked all of the boxes'

Why you should be excited about third-round pick Diontae Johnson:

He’s special: Johnson, a 5-foot-10, 183-pound wide receiver from Toledo, produced four return scores (two on punts and two on kickoffs) over the last two seasons. He averaged 20.2 yards per punt return and 23.4 yards per kickoff return at Toledo.

He’s decorated: Johnson was the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year, first-team all-MAC at punt returner and wide receiver and second-team at kickoff returner in 2018.

He’s productive: Johnson caught 137 passes for 2,276 yards and 24 touchdowns in 38 games at Toledo. His best season was in 2017, when he caught 74 passes for 1,278 yards ( a Toledo single-season record) and 13 touchdowns and led the MAC in all-purpose yards per game (148.0).

He has character and charisma: “I fell in love with him after spending time with him, dining with him, and talking to him, seeing his passion for the game, his passion for wanting to be great, and his passion for his teammates,” Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said. “As you get to be around him, you’re going to love his smile and his personality and his style of play. 

“I went to Toledo and spent some time there and with him. I also attended his Pro Day and I met him at the Combine. I had time to really be around him because it was important to me what kind of character he had. That’s extremely important and he checked all of the boxes as far as that’s concerned.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and he was one of the best interviews and guys that I’ve been around in a long time.”

The Steelers beat the Bucs to the punch: “There were so many people at his Pro Day and there were so many coaches who were at that Pro Day and everybody raved about this kid, so he probably would not be around (past the third round),” Drake said. “I know for a fact Tampa Bay was going to take him on their next pick, and I got cussed out by the Tampa Bay head coach who called me some names for taking him because that was his guy.

“We all talk, receiver coaches talk. He was the one guy everybody talked about, and there wasn’t one guy who didn’t like this guy.” 

He’s Roy Hobbs: General Manager Kevin Colbert, like Drake, was effusive in is praise of Johnson.

”Diontae Johnson is a nice insider-, outside-capable receiver that does both punt and kick returns,” Colbert assessed. “When we talked about Diontae in our meetings, Phil Kreidler, our scouting coordinator, when he read his report on Diontae was just kind of funny. I know Coach Drake used the same terms, but (Kreidler) must’ve said ‘natural’ five times.

“It's just what we believe, that this kid is just a natural football talent.”

View photos of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 third round pick, WR, Diontae Johnson

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