Steelers WR Diontae Johnson’s Dispute is Prime Example of ‘Me-First’

Getty Steelers WR Diontae Johnson scores a TD versus the Titans.

Pittsburgh shock-jock Mark Madden sees Diontae Johnson’s Steelers training camp hold-in as a prime example of a me-first attitude.

Naturally, comparisons are being made between Johnson’s hold-in to those of T.J. Watt’s last season and, most recently, Minkah Fitzpatrick. Johnson is taking the same route as his hold-in predecessors, but it’s not likely to get the same result. T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick are generational players — at least one is a future Hall of Famer. Their contract extensions were imminent, and their stances resulted in lucrative contracts. Johnson may not be so lucky.

“Why wouldn’t Johnson think he can do the same thing and get the same result,” Madden asked in a 105.9 the X blog post.

“Johnson isn’t Watt. But Johnson doesn’t know that. Nobody will tell him,” he wrote.

“Ben Roethlisberger recently said that the Steelers have become me-first, not team-first. Cam Heyward repudiated what Roethlisberger said.

“But it took all of one team session at camp for Roethlisberger to be proven correct.”

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But is it really “me-first” in the context Roethlisberger spoke about? He was referring to selfish players. Johnson has stated he wants to remain in Pittsburgh, and there’s no question he wants to be a full-go at camp, but his agent is likely instructing otherwise.

“I know where his mind is at as far as being with the team and about the team,” Steelers cornerback Cam Sutton told reporters on July 28. “And listen, he’s all about that. He’s not a selfish guy, not one bit. He’s ready to play. All the other stuff that I can’t control, but it will get situated. He’ll be fine, and we’ll be glad to have him back out here. It’s great to even see him out here still being around the room and being a leader for those young guys.”

Steelers, Diontae Johnson on Different Pages

News about Diontae Johnson wanting an extension was one of the big storylines of the offseason. The Pittsburgh Steelers front office is keenly aware, but they certainly weren’t on the same page heading into training camp.

Johnson reported to camp on time, but he is holding in. As his contract continues to play out, it appears the fourth-year receiver will not be participating in team drills in the weeks leading up to regular season kickoff.

“I acknowledge that he was less than 100% participant, and we’ll continue to manage the circumstance,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said in a July 27 press conference.

As usual, Tomlin’s focus is on those who are participating. “I think that’s the appropriate mindset to have. From time to time, you get in a setting like this. You manage situations, circumstances, and people, but largely my energy is devoted to those that are working in the larger body, and that’s where I’m at with it.”

Steelers Show Support

Unfortunately for Diontae Johnson, he has little-to-no leverage in contract negotiations. Wide receivers are getting paid, but not in Pittsburgh. For the Steelers, wide receivers come and go. Many have succeeded in the system, then leave and fade away outside of it.

But his teammates are behind their star playmaker.

“Diontae will be ready by Week 1,” Steelers defensive tackle said in a July 28 press conference. “But I don’t think he’s going to harm the team in any way.”

While Johnson’s hold-in doesn’t seem to faze his teammates, how long this drags on should concern Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. While Watt and Fitzpatrick are models of consistency, Johnson is still growing and needs to build chemistry with a new quarterback for the first time in four years.

The Steelers will Steeler. They’ll offer a lowball contract — lower than Johnson can get on the open market — and he’ll be in a different uniform next year. Let’s just hope it’s not in the AFC North.

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