The local expectations around the Pittsburgh Steelers have skyrocketed over the past several weeks. Wide receiver Diontae Johnson didn’t do anything in his latest public appearance to squash that enthusiasm.
If anything, he threw a log on the fire.
While appearing as a guest on The Steel Here Podcast, Johnson strongly claimed that the Steelers will make the playoffs in 2023.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers are a playoff team,” Johnson said. “For sure.”
But he didn’t stop there. When asked if the Steelers were capable of winning the Super Bowl this upcoming season, the receiver responded, “Of course. No doubt.”
“I feel like this is the year,” Johnson told hosts Kevin Adams and Jersey Jerry. “People can say what they want to say, but when you’re out there playing alongside these guys, you can just feel it.
“But if you’re not, you can’t, really, so you won’t understand.”
Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth Said He Feels the Same Buzz
While one could argue Johnson’s answer was quite a bold statement, it was one that tight end Pat Freiermuth likely agrees with himself.
Freiermuth wasn’t quite as brazen as Johnson, but the tight end also used the phrase “this is our year” during an interview with Randy Baumann and the DVE Morning Show on August 9.
“From OTAs and now training camp, I think we could feel the vibe change,” Freiermuth said. “This is our year to get the offense going. Everyone’s stepped up to the plate, and I think everyone’s having a great camp so far.
It’s probably difficult for Steelers players, particularly on offense, to feel any differently after the preseason the team experienced. Starting quarterback Kenny Pickett played five drives, and all five ended in touchdowns.
Pickett didn’t finish his rookie season with terrific statistics. However, he threw two game-winning touchdowns in the final minute late in the season against the Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens.
He also only had 1 interception in his last 224 pass attempts.
His vast improvement and the leadership Pickett showcased last season and during the offseason led starting left tackle Dan Moore Jr. to declare Pickett as having the ‘it’ factor.
“He really has a voice. I talked to a lot of guys about it,” Moore told reporters on September 4. “Kenny has that ‘it.’ I don’t know what ‘it’ is, but he has it.”
Steelers Hype Could Continue Building in September
Pittsburgh has a tough opener against the San Francisco 49ers. However, the Steelers will begin the season at home for the first time since 2014. That could provide at least a mental boost for the team.
The Steelers may also avoid facing two of San Francisco’s best players. Tight end George Kittle is dealing with a groin injury while defensive end Nick Bosa, who is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is in a contract dispute.
If the Steelers upset the 49ers, they are set up to start the season fast. From Weeks 2-4, Pittsburgh will face three opponents who had losing records in 2022. Then, the Steelers will host the Ravens before the bye week.
Last season, the Steelers began the season 2-6, giving themselves little margin for error during the second half.
If Pittsburgh’s hype is real, then the Steelers should have a much better September and October this year.
That would put themselves in position to at least fulfill Johnson’s playoff declaration.