Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson addressed his Steelers teammates Wednesday after several reporters asked him about an apparent lack of effort during a play against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Johnson was sent home from practice with an illness Thursday, though this seems unrelated to the attention he received earlier in the week.

The play in question occurred in the first quarter last weekend and resulted in a Steelers fumble. Johnson can be seen distancing himself from the play, seemingly uninterested in diving for the ball or bringing down the Bengals defender with possession. He originally claimed that he was not aware that the play was live but apologized on Wednesday.

“That’s not me as a player,” Johnson said, according to ESPN. “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, just going forward, just be smart, keep playing ’til the whistle blows.”


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Johnson missed part of this season with a hamstring injury but has returned without issue and assumed a dominant role in Pittsburgh’s offense. The team is still in the early days of moving on from former offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who received criticism throughout the year for preparing the team poorly.

The Steelers’ star wide receiver was part of another major story out of the Steelers’ locker room earlier this season when his teammate and fellow wide receiver, George Pickens, had an outburst on social media after an unproductive game on Thursday Night Football. Johnson was a voice of reason in that dispute, explaining to reporters that he had spoken to Pickens and helped him work through several issues.

Though Johnson may have given up on one play against the Bengals, he could prove extremely important as the team inches closer and closer to securing a postseason berth. He is the Steelers’ most targeted receiver when he’s on the field and could get more scoring opportunities as the team continues to reinvent itself on offense.

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