Former Steeles WR Diontae Johnson Wasn’t Expecting to Be Traded

pittsburgh steelers diontae johnson

Getty Diontae Johnson was surprised when the Pittsburgh Steelers traded him.

The Pittsburgh Steelers took part in some of football’s most surprising trades this offseason.

They traded Kenny Pickett to the Eagles. Then they traded for Justin Fields to replace him.

Still, their most surprising trade may have been the one that sent Diontae Johnson to the Carolina Panthers.

The deal saw the Steelers receive Donte Jackson and the 178th pick in this year’s draft in exchange for Johnson and the 240th pick.

At least one of the players involved in the deal wasn’t expecting to get dealt.

While speaking to the media on April 23, Johnson revealed that he was surprised that he was traded, but he felt blessed to get a fresh start.

“I was surprised, but blessed at the same time. Fresh start somewhere. I’ve been in Pittsburgh five years now. Coming here is different. Still trying to get acclimated, but I’m enjoying the process right now.”

What the Trade Meant for the Steelers

At the time the Steelers made the trade, a cornerback was one of the team’s biggest needs.

They had very little experience at the position outside of Joey Porter Jr. after they released Patrick Peterson.

Trading for Jackson didn’t do much to address that aside from giving the secondary a bit more speed, which they were lacking in 2023.

Jackson isn’t coming off of the best season. Last year, he allowed opposing QBs to complete more than 65% of their pass attempts when throwing his way and gave up 12.4 yards per completion according to PFF.

The completion percentage allowed is worse than what the Steelers got from Peterson last season and the yards per completion were just 0.1 better than what Peterson allowed in 2023.

Meanwhile, the trade had a big impact on the Steelers’ offense.

The deal left them without a WR2.

At the time, the only players left who had made a catch for the Steelers in 2023 were George Pickens and Calvin Austin. Austin has just 180 career receiving yards.

Since then, they’ve signed Quez Watkins and Van Jefferson, but neither of them is really a replacement for Johnson.

That has left them still looking for somebody that can replace a receiver that had a very productive five years in Pittsburgh just a couple of days before the draft.

Johnson’s Run in Pittsburgh

The Steelers drafted Johnson in the third round back in 2019 and it was an investment that definitely paid off for him during his time with the team.

Johnson’s NFL career had a solid start. As a rookie, Johnson joined a Steelers organization whose passing game was going through a major change after they traded Antonio Brown.

That year, he led the team in catches with 59 and finished second on the team in receiving yards with 680.

In year two his impact grew. Johnson made 88 catches during his second NFL campaign and led the Steelers with 923 yards.

Then he had the best year of his career in 2021. Johnson’s third season saw him make 107 catches for 1161 yards and 8 touchdowns on his way to a spot in the Pro Bowl.

His numbers tailed off in 2022, but he was still a reliable producer for the Steelers. He made 86 catches for 882 yards in the team’s first season after Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement.

In what ended up being Johnson’s final season with the Steelers, he was overtaken as the team’s WR1 by Pickens. He still managed to make 51 catches for 717 yards.

Now he’ll return to being a WR1 as he joins the Panthers.

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