Steelers WR Diontae Johnson Breaks Silence on Contract Talks

Getty Steelers' Diontae Johnson carries the ball for a touchdown.

Omar Khan has two significant tasks on his hands right out of the gate. The Pittsburgh Steelers have big-time players with expiring contracts in safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Diontae Johnson. Khan, who stepped in to fill the rather large shoes of general manager Kevin Colbert in May, has to work the same financial magic he has for decades to make the two happy.

Or, in the case of Johnson, maybe not.

Though Pittsburgh runs a tight ship and doesn’t publicly discuss contract negotiations, it’s all but a guarantee that Minkah Fitzpatrick will be in the Black and Gold for years to come.

Johnson, 25, is entering the final year of his four-year rookie deal. Historically with wide receivers, no matter how productive, a second contract is not-so-guaranteed. Since the Steelers have a long-standing policy of not negotiating contracts in-season, there are just a few short months to get something done.

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Aside from the one-year fluke contract JuJu Smith-Schuster signed in 2021, only two wide receivers signed a second deal with Pittsburgh this century: Hines Ward and Antonio Brown. If we’re going off history alone, there’s a slim chance we’ll be adding Diontae Johnson’s name to that distinguished list.

And that’s OK. The Steelers are one of the best in the league at scouting and drafting talent at the position. They did it twice in the 2022 NFL draft with George Pickens and Calvin Austin III — one of them is bound to step up when Johnson seeks employment elsewhere.

Diontae Dollars

Diontae Johnson is an unassuming guy. He’s not a flashy or vocal diva like some wide receivers are known to be. Johnson just puts his head down and works, so he’s not made known his contract demands in public circles.

“We talked about [monetary figures] plenty of times, but I try not to worry about it ’cause if I continue to worry about that, it’s gonna throw off what I got going on already, which is focusing and just grinding and focusing on controlling what I can control,” Johnson told reporters on June 7.

“So my time gonna come, and I’m just like I say, being patient again. And if it come this year, it’s a blessing. If it don’t, keep working.”

But when Jacksonville Jaguars’ Christian Kirk (who?!) reset the market for wide receiver earnings and top-tier players followed, there’s no question Johnson took note.

The Pro Bowl-less Kirk has not once eclipsed 1,000 yards in his career and has just 17 touchdowns in four seasons. Yet, when Kirk inked the stake-raising deal, he carved his name among the 10 highest-paid receivers in football. It didn’t take long before he was surpassed by some of the best currently in the game. Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill got historic deals thanks to their elite talent and Kirk shifting the market.

Johnson was a top-10 receiver a year ago with a Pro Bowl season earned from career highs in receptions (107), yards (1,161) and touchdowns (eight). He knows he deserves to be in the same conversation as the top 10 at his position.

“Most definitely ’cause film don’t lie.”

Spotrac lists Johnson’s base salary for the 2022 season as $2.79 million, or 61st among wide receivers.

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