‘That’s not me as a player’: Steelers WR Diontae Johnson apologizes for effort vs. Bengals

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Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson apologized Wednesday after he came under fire over the weekend for what appeared to be a lack of effort following a fumble by teammate Jaylen Warren.

Johnson said immediately after the Steelers’ 16-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday that he didn’t see the ball on the turf and didn’t realize the play was live. However, the clip was widely circulated on social media with fans and analysts blasting him for failing to recover the ball or chase down the defender who recovered it.

On Wednesday, Johnson took a different tone, saying he apologized to his teammates and let them know it won’t happen again.

“I addressed the situation to my teammates,” Johnson said. “They know how I feel and how I should go about the situation next time it occurs or whatever. I owned up to it. I’m not perfect. All I can do is just move forward and just keep playing football. That’s all I’m worried about.”

The sequence occurred on the Steelers’ second offensive series. Johnson appeared to reel in a touchdown pass from Kenny Pickett. Former NFL official Gene Steratore said on the CBS broadcast that Johnson got three feet down and a challenge would have been successful.

On the very next play, Warren fumbled. Johnson did not dive on the ball and appeared to turn his back in frustration.

“Diontae can’t let the emotions of the previous down affect his next down,” Steelers coach Tomlin said Tuesday. “But I’ll give him an opportunity to address that with (media). I’ll give him an opportunity to address that with his teammates. I’m not going to add any additional color.”

The 27-year-old Johnson said he stood up in front of his teammates, owned his “mistake” and let them know it wouldn’t happen again.

“That’s not me as a player,” Johnson said. “One play doesn’t define me. Never will. I didn’t come up playing football like that, so obviously it looks bad on film. From here on out going forward just be smart and play until the whistle blows.”

Johnson is an important piece of the Steelers’ offense, using his route-running prowess to add an underneath threat that complements deep-ball specialist George Pickens. This season, Johnson has reeled in 30 catches for 385 yards and one touchdown.

Johnson said he expects to be in the starting lineup against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

“I feel like I did the right thing by standing up in front of the team and owning up to my mistake,” Johnson said. “All I can do is just move forward.”

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(Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

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