Johnson's 'spark' earns him a big honor

Sometimes, all it takes is a spark.

And against the Arizona Cardinals it was Diontae Johnson who provided that spark.

Johnson had the play of the game in the Steelers 23-17 win over the Cardinals with an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown, a play that included him reversing direction and then turning on the afterburners. It was the longest punt return in team history, and it broke a dry spell, as the last punt return for a touchdown by the Steelers was in 2015.

It didn't just provide a spark, but also earned Johnson the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, the first time the rookie has won the award.

"That was big," said Johnson. "That gave us momentum on the next drive to put points on the board. We just took advantage of it and kept the momentum going.

"I have to give credit to the special teams right there. Without them, I wouldn't be able to do that. I just saw green grass, because we were talking about how the punter (Andy Lee) likes to outkick his coverage. He was doing it the whole time I was watching film, so he gave me an opportunity to have a lot of space to actually have room to maneuver. I took advantage of it and got in the end zone."

While he only added another punt return for two yards, his contributions to the Steelers win didn't stop there. Johnson also caught a two-yard touchdown from Devlin Hodges and finished the day as the team's leading receiver with six receptions for 60 yards. It was a game he was waiting all season for, a game that could be considered a breakout game for him.

"I would say because I haven't played this well in a while," said Johnson. "I just feel like myself out there. I have to give credit to the whole offense.

"We have a lot of weapons. We have a lot of people that can make plays, so we're just going in there and doing our job. This is just our job to execute the plays and that's what we've been doing these last couple of weeks."

Johnson's teammates were thrilled to see him have a game like this and know there is more to come.

"Diontae made a lot of great plays for us," said Jaylen Samuels, one of his lead blockers on the punt return. "The touchdown that he had, the punt return, the catch. He made plays all over the field.

"I knew it was coming. I knew he had it in him since he got here. For him to have a breakout game against this team on the road was big. We needed a spark, and he gave it to us."

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