Steelers Insider Reveals Latest on Diontae Johnson’s Future in Pittsburgh

Getty Steelers' Diontae Johnson scores a touchdown versus Titans.

Just days away from training camp at St. Vincent’s in Latrobe (FINALLY!), the Pittsburgh Steelers have one high-profile player seeking a contract extension in Diontae Johnson.

Chris Boswell is in the last year of his contract, too, but there’s no reason to fret over a kicker. Sure, he’s top-two in the league, but it’ll get done.

As for Johnson, it’s a bit more complicated.

Let’s start with the fact that the Steelers rarely give second contracts to receivers. Antonio Brown and Hines Ward are exceptions (more on that below), but they were also the best at the position since Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.

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Will Pittsburgh buck tradition and pay a wide receiver? It’s no longer Kevin Colbert’s call. If newly-minted general manager Omar Khan wants to put his stamp on the team, it’ll start with extending Diontae Johnson this offseason. Pittsburgh doesn’t negotiate contracts in-season, and Khan stated in his introductory press conference in May that policy will not change.


Latest on Getting Diontae Johnson a Deal

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ priority No. 1 in Minkah Fitzpatrick is happy, if Diontae Johnson is in the team’s future plans, it’ll happen before the regular season kicks off.

Steelers insider Dale Lolley says talks with Johnson are right around the corner.

“I’m told the Steelers will at least approach Diontae Johnson regarding an extension in the coming weeks,” Lolley wrote. “Whether that gets done or not depends on Johnson’s asking price.”

“And remember, despite all the ‘reports’ circulating out there, neither Johnson nor his agent have come out with any numbers. Everyone is just speculating what he’ll want based on some of the other wide receiver contracts given out this offseason.”

The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly noted that the Steelers wouldn’t go overboard with those numbers.

“By protocol, [the Steelers] will offer him what they think is a fair market deal without much wiggle room on their end,” he wrote. “It’s going to depend on how much Johnson is seeking from this bloated wide receiver market.”

Spotrac projects Johnson’s market value as four years, $88.28 million ($22 million average per year). The baseline for negotiations is likely to start at Terry McLaurin. The Washington Commanders recently doled out a three-year, $68 million contract ($23 million per year) to their star receiver.

Kaboly wrote in a July 5 mailbag that the Steelers wouldn’t give Johnson McLaurin money and predicts he’ll end up somewhere else next season.

“[The Steelers] aren’t offering him anything near [Terry] McLaurin or anybody else that got more than $20 million per year,” he wrote. “They will offer him something, and it won’t be what he thinks he can get on the market, and he will get paid next year somewhere else.”

If the Steelers don’t lock up Johnson before Week 1, he’ll test the free agent market in March 2023 for the first time in his career. There will be a team that offers $20 million-plus (ahem, Ravens) — more if he puts up career numbers — and he’ll take it.

Johnson logged 107 receptions, 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021 with a limited Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.

If Johnson proves that he can be consistently efficient this season, his next contract will reflect that. The question remains: Will it be with the Pittsburgh Steelers?


Receiver Contract History

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t pay wide receivers coming off their rookie contracts. Instead, they prefer to let them walk in free agency and restock via the draft — something they’re very good at doing.

The only wideouts in recent history the Steelers signed to multi-year contracts are Antonio Brown and Hines Ward.

The 2016 postseason was barely a month old when Brown and the Steelers agreed to a four-year, $68 million extension (Terry McLaurin money these days), making him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL. He was the type of generational talent Pittsburgh couldn’t afford to lose. The deal was intended to make Brown a “Steeler for life.” We know how that turned out.

To put in perspective how quickly contract deals inflate: In 2009, the Steelers signed Hines Ward to (what would be) his final deal worth $24.85 million over four years.

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