Steelers’ offense gets a boost from Johnson’s return


The Pittsburgh Steelers improved their record to 4-2 with a 24-17 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, thanks in large part to the return of wide receiver Diontae Johnson, who missed the previous four games with a hamstring injury. Johnson and George Pickens, the Steelers’ dynamic duo of pass catchers, matched the Rams’ talented pair of Cooper Kupp and Puca Nacua catch-for-catch, and helped spark a two-touchdown fourth quarter for the Steelers.


Johnson’s big play ignites the offense

The Steelers were trailing 17-10 at the start of the fourth quarter, and had struggled to convert on third downs throughout the game. On their first play of the final period, they faced a third-and-8 from their own 43-yard line. Johnson, lined up to the left in a bunch formation, ran a whip route to the outside, with cornerback Derion Kendrick giving him outside leverage. Quarterback Kenny Pickett saw that route open up and put the ball where only Johnson could catch it. After that, Johnson was off to the races, running all the way to the Los Angeles 18.

“I would say yes,” Johnson said when asked if he was the primary target on that play. “Kenny knows what he wants to do with the ball on third down. Kenny believed in me on that play. I made a play and showed what I can do with the ball in my hands. That’s what we needed. That play carried the momentum over for the rest of the game. We didn’t let up.”

That play set up a 13-yard touchdown run by Jaylen Warren two plays later, tying the game at 17-17. It also gave Pickett more confidence in his receiver, who had been sidelined since early in the second half of the Steelers’ opener.

“It was a really good route for him,” Pickett said. “He’s a great route runner. He gets separation. I just wanted to give him a chance. It was great to have him back.”

Pickens benefits from Johnson’s presence

Many people were concerned that with Johnson back on the field, Pickens’ opportunities would be limited moving forward. But, in reality, it might create more chances for both of them.

“You can’t double George as much as you’d like. I think that’s what we saw today,” Pickett said. “He was more singled up, giving him a chance on slants and things down the field. We moved him inside in that four-minute (offense) and got him down the seam. And then Diontae is doing his thing with his route running and his run after the catch was huge.”

Pickens finished with five receptions for 107 yards, while Johnson had five catches for 79 yards. Pickens had a long catch of 31 yards, while Johnson had a 39-yard catch-and-run that essentially sparked the offense in the fourth quarter.

The two receivers complement each other well, as Pickens is more of a deep threat and Johnson is more of a possession receiver who can make defenders miss in space.

“They’re both great players,” Pickett said. “They both bring different skill sets to the table. They both make plays when we need them to.”

Steelers’ defense holds off Rams’ comeback attempt

The Steelers’ offense wasn’t the only unit that stepped up in the fourth quarter. The defense also made some crucial stops to prevent the Rams from regaining the lead or tying the game.

After Warren’s touchdown run, the Rams drove to the Steelers’ 35-yard line, but linebacker T.J. Watt sacked Brock Purdy on third-and-10, forcing a punt.

The Steelers then took over at their own 10-yard line and marched 90 yards in 12 plays, capped by a 1-yard touchdown pass from Pickett to tight end Pat Freiermuth, giving them a 24-17 lead with 3:49 left in the game.

The Rams had one last chance to tie or win the game, but they faced a fourth-and-15 from their own 20-yard line after Watt and Alex Highsmith combined for another sack on Purdy. The Rams went for it, but Purdy’s pass intended for Kupp was broken up by cornerback Joe Haden, sealing the win for the Steelers.

The Steelers’ defense held Purdy to 23 of 38 passing for 248 yards, one touchdown and one interception. They also limited Kupp, who entered the game as the NFL’s leading receiver, to six catches for 68 yards and no touchdowns.

“We knew they had some explosive players on offense,” Watt said. “We knew we had to get pressure on Purdy and not let him get comfortable in the pocket. We also knew we had to take away Kupp as much as possible. He’s a great player who can make plays all over the field.”

The Steelers improved their record to 4-2 and moved into a tie with the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC North lead. They will face the Cleveland Browns next week in a divisional showdown.

By Kane Wilson

Kane Wilson, founder of this news website, is a seasoned news editor renowned for his analytical skills and meticulous approach to storytelling. His journey in journalism began as a local reporter, and he quickly climbed the ranks due to his talent for unearthing compelling stories. Kane completed his Master’s degree in Media Studies from Northwestern University and spent several years in broadcast journalism prior to co-founding this platform. His dedication to delivering unbiased news and ability to present complex issues in an easily digestible format make him an influential voice in the industry.

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