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Trading Diontae Johnson is not an option…Yet

Diontae Johnson is an interesting topic of discussion for Steelers fans. There have been suggestions of listening to trade offers for the Steelers “Number One WR.”

Diontae is coming off, in my opinion, a disappointing season after a 2 year, $36.71M contract extension this past August. He finished the 2022 season with 86 catches for 882 yards and ZERO TDs. Those 86 receptions without a single score are now an NFL record. Not a good side of history to be on.

First things first, let’s discuss the good and bad of Diontae.

| The Good

Yes, he’s a great route runner and a natural regarding separation. He makes corners look silly every week. When he plays smart, he can be a YAC monster and has the tools to be a true No.1 WR. Now and then, he’ll make a very splashy play. He’s also the leader in the WR room.

| The Bad (and ugly)

He’s the most hot and cold receiver I’ve ever seen. He’ll make the best play all year one play, then the next look like a rookie. He has the tools but can’t get out of his own way. He’s too inconsistent. The drops are still reoccurring, and how many times is he going to run backward and lose yards? He could have over 900+ yards this year if he just elected to run forward. It’s stalled drives because he tries too much.

There are arguments that the offensive gameplan and the young QB play handcuffs Johnson. My argument is Diontae just came off his 4th season with the team. Continuous errors are a headache, and it hurts more when you know all the talent is there.

| This may raise the question; should the Steelers listen to trade offers for Diontae Johnson? It’s not as simple as you may think.

Trading Diontae comes with a massive dead cap hit of $19.6M, according to Spotrac. The way I see it, the Steelers have trapped themselves in Diontae’s contract. Omar Khan and company rushed to get Diontae extended, which at the time seemed like the right move seeing how crazy expensive the WR market is. The Steelers should’ve stuck to their guns with WRs and let Diontae prove himself.

I’m aware the extension was probably more about surrounding Kenny Pickett with targets, and Diontae is someone the Steelers trust.

Although trading Diontae could come with good compensation with many WR-needy teams, it’s not an option for 2023. They just extended him and aren’t going to send him away so soon.

But for 2024? A little more likely. Less of a dead cap hit. In 2023, they’ll see more of George Pickens, Kenny, the run game, and the WR depth, which could make Johnson much more expendable. After all, the Steelers and WRs are always a trusting process.

I don’t think Diontae is ever getting traded. We know what Diontae is capable of, and entering his 5th year in 2023, there might be one lasting hope he cleans up his errors. Possibly with a 2nd year QB he could have his best year to date. If not? It’s a no-brainer for Omar Khan in 2024.

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