Steelers ‘Firework’ Trade Proposal Flips Star Receiver for Draft Pick

Getty Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson celebrate a Steelers touchdown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are loaded at the wide receiver position. With two veterans in Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool already on the roster, Pittsburgh selected Georgia’s George Pickens (52nd overall) and Mephis’ Calvin Austin III (138th overall) in the 2022 NFL draft.

Perhaps the picks indicate the Steelers are preparing to move on from Johnson, who’s in the final year of his rookie deal and currently slated to reach free agency in March. Or maybe the club is looking to cut ties with Johnson even sooner.

Bleacher Report, the king of trade proposals, suggests the Steelers look to get some draft capital in return for the budding receiver.

BR’s Kristopher Knox wrote, “Given the quick success we’ve recently seen from rookie receivers and Pittsburgh’s proven ability to develop them, flipping Johnson for draft capital and diving into the 2023 receiver pool is something Pittsburgh would have to consider if it’s looking at next season and beyond.”

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There’s no question the Steelers have a history of success with drafting young talent who wind up producing immediately. Getting something in return for Johnson, especially if he’s not in future plans, would be a wise move.

Typically, Pittsburgh doesn’t operate this way — it prefers to keep players through the entirety of their first contracts. But that was under a different general manager; this is Omar Khan‘s gig now, and he could be looking to shake things up a bit.

Return for Diontae Johnson

In a separate piece of “firework” trade scenarios, Knox specifically proposed the Pittsburgh Steelers swapping Diontae Johnson for a Dallas Cowboys 2023 second-round pick.

The Steelers currently have six selections in the 2023 draft, as they traded a fifth-rounder to the Seattle Seahawks for Ahkello Witherspoon prior to the start of the 2021 season. Acquiring a pick for Johnson would be wise for a rebuilding team like Pittsburgh.

“Adding Johnson would help ensure that Dallas’ top-ranked offense keeps rolling,” Knox wrote. “The Steelers, meanwhile, would get more in return than they would by losing Johnson for a compensatory pick in 2023 free agency.”

“If the Steelers aren’t willing to lock up Johnson, they could trade him out of the conference and to the Dallas Cowboys, who lost both Amari Cooper (traded) and Cedrick Wilson Jr. in the offseason.”

Controlling where Johnson lands would be huge for Pittsburgh. There’s no guarantee that he won’t end up with the club’s biggest rival — the Baltimore Ravens — if Johnson plays through to free agency with the Black & Gold. The Ravens, after all, are starving for talent at the wide receiver position.

After suffering from drops in his first two seasons, Johnson finally got it together in 2021 — mostly. Johnson’s game was plagued by 19 dropped passes as a rookie and sophomore. Last season, he went 10 straight games without a drop, only to be followed by five in the final six games. Still, Johnson recorded career highs in yards (1,161) and touchdowns (8).

It’s more likely the Steelers hold onto Johnson, as trading away their most productive offensive talent would leave an inconsistent Chase Claypool as WR1.

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