New Panthers Wide Receiver Feels Disrespected Ahead of 2024 Season

Johnson is motivated to have a bounce-back season, but will he have enough targets to make it happen?
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) tries to cut back against the Bills.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) tries to cut back against the Bills. / Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and

Diontae Johnson was outshined by George Pickens in Pittsburgh last season and wasn’t wanted back by the Steelers. Now, he’s out to prove that was a mistake. 

Johnson told reporters on Tuesday that he believes he’s still “a diamond in the rough” and that he doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

He’ll certainly get the chance to prove his doubters wrong this season, but will he have the chance? Let’s dig into it.  

What to Expect From Diontae Johnson in 2024

Johnson recorded 140+ targets in three straight seasons in Pittsburgh 2020-22, but wasn’t treated like a WR1 in 2023 – with 51 receptions on 87 targets for 717 yards and 5 TDs.

Those numbers were actually encouraging considering Johnson fell out of favor with the Steelers and was dealing with sub-optimal quarterback play. But it could be a challenge for him to get back to a 140-plus target season this fall. 

Adam Thielen stole the show last season in Carolina with 103 receptions on 137 targets while rookie Jonathan Mingo was the second option (85 targets).

It's likely that Johnson takes that WR1 spot from Thielen this season, but there's no good reason for Thielen to drop significantly in the pecking order after a 1,000-yard season, even though he'll be 34 years old in August.

Carolina still has Mingo and No. 32 overall pick Xavier Legette to compete for targets, too, along with Terrace Marshall Jr. and tight end Tommy Tremble.

“They didn’t really have guys to get open last year,” Johnson said, according to The Athletic this offseason. “So me being in this offense is a big impact for (Bryce Young) and the rest of the guys around him. So we can all learn from each other, learn from Adam (Thielen). Adam can learn from me. So those little things matter. Everybody getting on the same page, that goes a long way.”

With D.J. Chark (66 targets) and Hayden Hurst (32 targets) now gone from the offense, there should be enough opportunities for all of those receivers, but it would likely take an injury or a much more pass-happy offense to get Johnson to a 140+ target season.

And a lot of Johnson's success relies on Bryce Young improving. Young had an awful rookie season as he completed just 59.8% of his passes for 2,877 yards.

There are too many variables to nail down how many targets Johnson will get just yet, but there’s no doubt that he’s highly motivated to make the most of his opportunities as he’s due for a new contract after this season.

It’s always a challenge to predict season-long numbers in June, but we can take a stab at it – using Johnson’s career averages and how he projects to fit into the Carolina offense.

Old North Banter 2024-25 Diontae Johnson Projections

Diontae Johnson

Projected 2024-25 Stats





Receiving Yards




Those aren't exactly numbers that demand big-time respect in the NFL. Here’s to hoping that he proves us wrong.

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