Steelers Bold Proposed Trade Ships Out WR Diontae Johnson

Getty Diontae Johnson runs the ball.

This time of year is always filled with intrigue and anticipation. The Pittsburgh Steelers and 31 other teams are working feverishly to assemble the best roster possible in advance of the upcoming season. Diehard fans simulate mock draft after mock draft while teams prepare for the real one, April’s 2023 NFL draft.

Trade proposals are nearly as plentiful as mocks. Some far-fetched, some feasible. Via Twitter, Hoov proposed a potential trade involving Diontae Johnson. The Houston Texans are expected to finally (hopefully) land that franchise quarterback in this year’s NFL draft. Ohio State product C.J. Stroud or whoever Houston selects will need a veteran pass-catcher.

Hoov floats the idea of the Steelers trading Johnson and their second pick of the second round (No. 49) to the Texans for their pick at No. 12. Pittsburgh gets its coveted offensive tackle and still has the pick from the Chicago Bears at No. 32 to grab a defensive lineman or secondary help.

The Steelers would be a receiver down, so Hoov suggests selecting USC’s Jordan Addison at No. 17 or No. 32 to replace Johnson. Most mocks have Addison off the board by Pittsburgh’s pick.

It’s a hypothetical scenario, but the question is whether trading a first-round pick for Johnson would be worth it. It doesn’t seem realistic that any team would surrender a day-one pick for his services. It’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and, lately, it hasn’t been much. Though he had a rookie quarterback throwing to him, he never found paydirt in a record 86 catches. Per Pro Football Reference, he logged just 882 yards receiving and a career-low 2.7 yards after the catch.

Pittsburgh has paid Johnson’s guaranteed money, so if a trade were actually to go down in the real world, his new team would only be on the hook for $15 million ($8 million in 2023 and $7 million in 2024), per Over The Cap.

Top 2023 NFL Draft Prospects for Steelers at Offensive Tackle

ESPN, Pro Football Network, Pro Football Focus — no matter where you look, there’s a common consensus: The 2023 interior offensive line class is a weak one. This isn’t a spectacular year to be looking to draft an elite center or guard, arguably two positions Pittsburgh could use an upgrade at.

Thankfully offensive tackle, one of the Steelers’ most glaring weaknesses, is deep.

“Offensive tackles are often sought at or near the top of a draft,” Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay wrote. “Squads that have managed to find a quality quarterback—almost always the most important item on any team’s to-do list—must protect that investment, and there’s almost no better way to accomplish that than by selecting a blue-chip tackle.”

Of course the Steelers want to protect who they believe to be their quarterback of the future, Kenny Pickett.

“Fortunately for the many clubs needing to bolster their protection, this class has a plethora of tackles who could bookend either side of an NFL offensive line for the foreseeable future,” Kay noted.

Thirteen offensive tackles landed in the top 150 of this draft class. Bleacher Report has Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. as the projected top two to go off the board. Kay argues that Johnson is more physically gifted than Skoronski but that “his protection skills are still a tad raw and need to be developed before he can become an NFL star.” That’s concerning for a player the Steelers would, ideally, need to be a plug-and-play guy.

An intriguing name after Johnson is Georgia’s Broderick Jones. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound tackle has been mocked to the Steelers a ton this offseason.

While the class is deep, if the Steelers want a premier franchise tackle to protect their franchise quarterback, they’ll need to get him at No. 17. It’s a position they’ve settled on for years but can’t afford to any longer.

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