Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers has the reputation as a player’s coach around the NFL. Over the years, that has caused Tomlin to also earn the reputation as a coach who will coddle immature players such as wide receiver Diontae Johnson.
But on November 28, Tomlin didn’t do much coddling after his veteran receiver’s latest transgression.
Tomlin didn’t completely throw Johnson under the bus for the lack of effort he displayed on a Jaylen Warren fumble during the first quarter of Week 12. But Tomlin made it clear that the play is something Johnson must address both to his teammates and reporters.
“Diontae [Johnson] can’t let the emotions of the previous down affect his next down. But I’ll give him an opportunity to address that with you guys,” Tomlin said during his November 28 press conference. “I’ll give him an opportunity to address that with his teammates. I’m not going to add any additional color. I think plays like that are best described and outlined by those involved and less so by guys like me.
“It’s something that he needs to answer for, and so I will give him an opportunity for him to do that. His teammates will give him an opportunity to do that. And I won’t provide any color until he does.”
Johnson received significant criticism on social media for not blocking and then not attempting to recover a fumble on a play against the Cincinnati Bengals. The criticism for Johnson continued in the media on November 27 and 28.
“Yeah … Diontae Johnson has completely given up with the Steelers,” A to Z Sports’ Brandon Little wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
Immediately after the game, Johnson told reporters that he didn’t realize Warren fumbled.
“No, I just didn’t see it,” Johnson said, via Steelers Now’s Nick Farabaugh. “I was just doing what I was doing — blocking or whatever.”
On the play prior to Warren’s fumble, Johnson failed to secure the ball in the end zone on a potential touchdown pass.
Mike Tomlin Says Diontae Johnson Must ‘Answer For’ Effort on Fumble
What Tomlin said about Johnson might not seem like much, but the Steelers head coach is usually a strong defender of his players and coaches.
Tomlin saying Johnson needs to and will address to his lack of effort on the Warren’s fumble sounded a bit like a parent pronouncing that their kid would correct their own wrong.
If this were Johnson’s first mental mistake, then perhaps the veteran receiver wouldn’t be getting so much criticism. But it’s not.
On the field, Johnson has committed costly taunting penalties over the past couple seasons. Away from the field, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on November 26 that after the Steelers lost to the Cleveland Browns in Week 11, Johnson got into a “heated locker-room argument” with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Following those incidents, Tomlin didn’t call on Johnson to address the media or the team like he did on November 28.
Shannon Sharpe Blasts WR Johnson
Johnson has become a piñata since his lack of effort on Warren’s fumble. NFL commentators are bashing him left and right.
Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe had one of the most entertaining rants of Johnson on his Nightcap show with Chad Ochocino.
“You drop a touchdown, and then you walk off the ball, and the ball is fumbled, and you don’t do nothing,” Sharpe said. “Man, h*** no. Walking off the ball.
“It’s a bad look because you complaining about the ball. You dropped the touchdown on the drive before, and then you walk off the ball. Ok, walking off the ball is bad enough, but then the ball popped out, and you don’t even chase.”
Sharpe added that if one of his wide receiver teammates had done that during his career, his offensive linemen teammates would have put a “cord” around the receiver’s neck.
Johnson responded to some of his critics through his X account on November 26. However, he did not take any responsibility for his lack of effort on Warren’s fumble.
It will be very interesting to see how he addresses the play in his next media availability.