Steelers’ Diontae Johnson reveals what it’ll be like to play without fans
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson is having a hard time envisioning opening the 2020 regular season without fans in the seats.
When asked about what it would be like to play without fans, Johnson compared the hypothetical to a scrimmage, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN.
Diontae Johnson asked what it would be like to start the season without fans. Said it would feel like a scrimmage.
“The game just wouldn’t feel right. It would feel like another practice.”
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) May 27, 2020
Plenty of players and coaches have joined Johnson in expressing the strangeness such a situation would present. In the same breath, these are strange times. The coronavirus pandemic has altered the natural course of the sporting world.
While the NFL was fortunate enough to be in its offseason at the beginning of nationwide lockdowns, the pandemic is likely going to impact practices and training camps. And, whether Johnson likes it or not, COVID-19 will almost certainly impact the number of fans in the seats watching Steelers games.
Even if state governors allow fans to attend games, it is unlikely any team will be able to fill their stadium to capacity. Limited seating might be seen as a best-case scenario at present.
Naturally, fans play a large role in establishing the energy and environment of any given sporting event. But the players should be prepared to hear less crowd noise, at least at the start of the season.
For his part, Johnson has reason to be optimistic about his future. He led the Steelers in targets and receiving touchdowns last season while also finishing second in receiving yards.
Whether he will be able to celebrate with fans at Heinz Field remains to be seen. But Ben Roethlisberger back and healthy, the Steelers hope Johnson improves on his impressive rookie campaign.