Diontae Johnson: Steelers Want to Play for Ben

Noah Strackbein

PITTSBURGH -- Diontae Johnson only has five quarters of NFL experience with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. The Pro Bowl passer returned to the field last week for the first time since Week 2 of the 2019 season, and players are already feeling his presence. 

Johnson, who spoke with media on Zoom Wednesday, said Roethlisberger has been on his mind all offseason. The second-year receiver spent time at the quarterback's house this spring. The two worked out and began adjusting to life on the field together. 

As they begin the ramp-up period of training camp, they're taking those thoughts and putting them into action. 

"I thought about it since the end of the season, just getting back ready and expecting Ben to come back 100 percent," Johnson said. "I am looking forward to getting on the field with Ben this year and being able to help him win games and a championship too. I know how hard he worked this offseason to get back healthy and I know how hard I have been working to prepare myself for this season. To be able to get back on the field with him this year is amazing. I can't wait to get it going."

Being excited about the quarterback's return is one thing, but Roethlisberger is coming off surgery on his throwing elbow. The 38-year-old had three torn flexor tendons torn off the bone, which ended his season early. 

Despite speculations on whether or not he'd be the same now that his return is official, Johnson said Roethlisberger is looking even better than he did last summer. 

"Ben's arm is way better than it was last year," said Johnson. "I am just trying to help him win games.

"Everybody wants to play for Ben. He is our leader. He is our quarterback. Everybody is locked in every play, knowing what we have to do. Just the energy he brings to the offense, you want to play for a guy like Ben. He will help you make plays and you want to make him look good.

"He is different this year. He is more excited. He is anxious to get on the field and play with us. That makes you want to play for him even more. That is one of the things I have seen from him, him engaging with me more this year. Being able to talk to him and have that connection, we are going to keep building that."

Without Roethlisberger, Johnson recorded 59 catches for 680 yards and five touchdowns. Now, with Roethlisberger under center, he expects to be an even bigger contribution. 

I feel like I can be that guy," Johnson said. "My ability to make plays off the line, out of my breaks, and make plays down the field gives him an option to come to me on third down, whatever down it is. I just want to be consistent for him."

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.

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