When Ben Roethlisberger announced his retirement following the 2021 season, Diontae Johnson probably figured that his production would go down slightly in 2022, but he probably wasn't expecting it to fall off a cliff. However, that's exactly what happened for the Steelers receiver, at least when it comes to catching touchdown passes.
After leading the Steelers with eight receiving touchdowns in 2021, Johnson had ZERO during a 2022 season where he set two unfortunate NFL records, including one that will likely never be broken.
The unbreakable record? Johnson was targeted 147 times during the season, which is now the NFL record for most targets without a catching a single touchdown, and as you can see below, Johnson absolutely smashed the record.
Diontae Johnson just broke potentially the most unbreakable record in professional football.— Davis Mattek (@DavisMattek) January 10, 2023
147 targets with ZERO touchdowns. No one else is within 20 targets of him on the historical leaderboard with no scoring plays.
Unbelievable stuff. pic.twitter.com/8cNCBFJCr0
The next-closest person on the list is former Bears receiver Michael Timpson, who got 109 targets in 1996, but caught zero touchdowns. Overall, there have only been seven players in NFL history who have finished with zero touchdown receptions in a season where they also got at least 100 targets.
(Stats via Pro-Football-Reference.com)
One thing to consider here is that Johnson did play 17 games in 2022, which is more than any other player on this list, but even if you take his 16-game average (138.4 targets), he would have still smashed the record.
Besides that record, Johnson also set the mark for most receptions without a touchdown catch. The Steelers receiver caught 86 passes in 2022, which allowed him to break a 38-year-old record. Former Buccaneers running back James Wilder caught 85 passes without a touchdown in 1984, which was the old record before Johnson came along. As a matter of fact, before this past season, the only two players in NFL history to catch at least 80 passes without a receiving TD were both running backs (Wilder and Roger Craig in 1986, who caught 81 passes for the 49ers).
The upside for Johnson is that there's one record he didn't break: Most receiving yards in a season without a touchdown. Johnson finished with 882, which ranks as the third-most all time without a TD. The only two players to top that number are Al Toon (963 for the Jets in 1991) and Hakeem Nicks (896 for the Giants in 2013).
With Roethlisberger in 2021, Johnson ended up leading the Steelers in all three major receiving categories with 107 catches for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns. Although he once again led the team in receptions and yardage, he came up empty in the touchdown department with Kenny Pickett and Mitchell Trubisky throwing to him. Maybe that's why Johnson was hoping to see Mason Rudolph get some playing time in December.
WOW. Diontae Johnson straight up says he wants Mason Rudolph to start.— Smittywerbin (@smittywerbin1) December 15, 2022
In late November, Mike Tomlin was asked about Johnson's lack of touchdowns and he said it was because teams were playing much closer attention to him after his huge 2021 season.
"Let's be frank, OK. Diontae is the known commodity within the group, and so people are going to have an agenda to minimize his impact on the game, particularly in significant moments," Tomlin said on Nov. 22. "Possession down, red zone football. When you've got a guy that's been a Pro Bowler, and really, he's kind of the only one. You've got a young group, [so] that's a component of it."
The receiver signed a two-year, $36.71 million extension with the Steelers in August, and considering the money he's getting paid, it's probably safe to say that both Johnson and the team would like to see him make a few trips to the end zone in 2023.