With another NFL regular season past, the record books, both league-wide and for respective franchises, have been rewritten. Tom Brady broke the single-season record for most pass attempts and completions. Justin Jefferson reset the Minnesota Vikings’ franchise record for receiving yards, surpassing the great Randy Moss.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson set a record, too, but it isn’t one he wants to boast about with his peers.
Pittsburgh had trouble scoring this season, averaging just 18.1 points per game to finish 26th in the league overall. And Johnson caught a raw deal because of the Steelers’ inefficiency in the red zone.
Johnson rewrote the record for the most targets in one season without scoring a touchdown with 147.
To put that into perspective, the next closest player was Michael Timpson with the 1996 Chicago Bears at 109 targets. And while Johnson did play a 17-game season, he still would have surpassed Timpson by a good margin in 16 games, as he totaled 137 targets.
Johnson likely knew there was going to be a regression on the stat sheet with Ben Roethlisberger retiring following the 2021 campaign. He was Big Ben’s favorite target, hauling in 107 receptions on 169 targets last season for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns.
But Johnson tallied the second-most targets of his career this season with Mitchell Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett under center, though he caught only 86 of them for 882 yards, which led the Steelers. Johnson was still the clear top receiver of the group.
He also had 17 red zone targets on the year, which made up 30.36% of the Steelers’ target share in that area.
Instead, rookie receiver George Pickens led Pittsburgh with four touchdowns through the air, while running back Najee Harris had three, tight end Pat Freirmuth had two and Chase Claypool, who was later traded to the Chicago Bears, Derek Watt and Connor Heyward each had one score.
To add insult to injury, Johnson caught a two-point conversion against the Cleveland Browns in the final game of the season from Pickett. A catch in the end zone, but only counting for two points.
It was still a productive year for Johnson, who remains under contract for the next two seasons before reaching free agency in 2025.
He’ll just have to save those touchdown celebrations for next season.