Things have gone from bad to worse for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the past month. After a third consecutive loss in Week 15, the Steelers appear on the verge of falling apart. It’s time for players who have been with the organization for several years such as wide receiver Diontae Johnson, who is the longest-tenured member of Pittsburgh’s offense, to step up and lead the group through this difficult time.
But according to Steelers analyst and former defensive tackle Chris Hoke, Johnson is doing more harm than good.
Hoke ripped Johnson on KDKA TV’s Extra Point postgame show after the receiver said following the Steelers’ 30-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts that the “defense was leaking.”
“That’s why there’s no leadership on offense,” Hoke said of Johnson’s dig at the Pittsburgh defense, according to Steelers Depot’s Ross McCorkle. “I played 11 seasons with the Steelers, and we had some bad games at times. We never called each other out. We never said this defense was leaking.
“There’s been a lot of times that the offense couldn’t get a first down, and the Steelers defense bailed them out and won games for them, and they never went out and said, ‘Hey, the offense was leaking.’”
Diontae Johnson Says Steelers Defense Was ‘Leaking’ Against Colts
Complimentary football is a cliché term, but it’s still the best formula to win even in the modern NFL. The best teams have all three of their units — offense, defense and special teams — working together, complimenting each other.
When one unit fails or is having a bad game, the other two have to make up the difference.
One could argue Johnson was actually trying to convey that message. If that was the case, though, he probably should have chosen his words more careful.
“Defense is leaking,” Johnson told reporters, via Steelers Depot’s Josh Carney. “They’ve got some players down, and it showed on the defense. Offense, we’ve just got to capitalize on third downs and just make plays.”
In other words, the Steelers offense needs to do more to help its defense. That’s Johnson holding some level of accountability for his own play.
But obviously, Hoke took major issue with the way Johnson phrased his sentiment.
“For him to say that is the definition of why this Steelers team has no leadership on offense,” said Hoke.
Steelers Defense Struggled Against Another Backup QB
The Steelers faced another backup signal caller in Gardner Minshew in Week 15. The Colts also lost top wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Zack Moss to injuries during the game.
But it didn’t matter. The Steelers inside linebackers couldn’t cover tight ends or running backs out of the flat again. Then in the second half, the Colts pummeled the Steelers with practice squad running backs in the ground game.
Indianapolis averaged 5 yards per carry while rushing for 170 yards. Minshew posted 7.7 yards per pass.
At one point in the second half, the Colts called 13 straight running plays on a single drive. The Steelers defense simply couldn’t stop anything.
Clearly, Johnson’s claim that the Pittsburgh defense was leaking in Week 15 was true. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Steelers defenders will like hearing it from an offensive player.
Particularly when it’s been the Steelers defense largely carrying the offense most of this season.