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Former Pro Bowl Receiver Could Be Offseason Trade Target Following Effort Concerns

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson has made headlines for all the wrong reasons, and the team could trade him in the offseason.
Diontae Johnson

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson could be the subject of offseason trade talks following a series of on- and off-field issues with the organization. Even though the team won in Week 12, Johnson had one of the worst days you will ever see. The wideout dropped a would-be touchdown pass from quarterback Kenny Pickett, ran backward for a five-yard loss on a screen pass and, perhaps most egregious of all, showed a shocking lack of effort following a Jaylen Warren fumble.

This isn’t the first time Johnson’s effort and fit on the Steelers has come into question. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the wide receiver previously got into a “heated post-game locker room argument” with Minkah Fitzpatrick last week and physically needed to be separated by T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward. This type of poor behavior is officially a recurring trend, and Johnson’s frustrations with the team are starting to make their way onto the field. There is no excuse for this, especially since Pittsburgh fired offensive coordinator Matt Canada prior to Sunday’s game against the Bengals.

Could the Pittsburgh Steelers Trade Diontae Johnson In the Offseason?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a long history with wide receivers with questionable attitudes, and these stories usually end the same way. Back in 2019, the Steelers traded Antonio Brown to the Las Vegas Raiders, and just one year ago, the team sent Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears. The trade deadline is already over, so Johnson will remain with the organization for the remainder of the 2023 campaign. After that, however, it’s easy to envision the Pittsburgh Steelers trading Diontae Johnson to a new team.

Johnson is under contract for the 2024 season and, according to OverTheCap, carries a $15.8 million cap hit. However, the Steelers can free up $10 million in cap space by trading Johnson at some point before Week 1. With George Pickens on a rookie contract and a draft class loaded with talent at wide receiver, Pittsburgh should feel comfortable in their ability to find two starting-caliber receivers before the start of the 2024 season.

Even though Johnson has effort concerns, nobody can deny that he is an above-average starter when motivated. Despite dealing with serious quarterback concerns ever since entering the league, Diontae Johnson has recorded over 140 targets and 850 yards in each of the past three seasons. Seeing as he’s only under contract for one additional season and will be playing in his age-28 season, several teams should be willing to give up a low-value asset for his services.

Top Trade Destinations

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots have a lot of work to do over the next few months. This team has perhaps the worst offense in football and they desperately need to improve the quarterback and pass-catching options. While they’ll likely address the quarterback position in the NFL Draft, the team will still need to find someone capable of getting open against press coverage. Diontae Johnson is an ideal fit for that role, as his ability to quickly get open could make him an ideal security blanket for whoever the Patriots draft.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs have a young, elite defense and Patrick Mahomes. This combination will ensure that they are Super Bowl contenders for years to come, but they need to find an NFL-caliber wide receiver. Rashee Rice has shown promise, but the rest of the depth chart leaves a lot to be desired. Mahomes can’t do it all on his own, and this team is in the midst of their Super Bowl window. Instead of throwing a dart at a prospect in the NFL Draft, the Chiefs should invest in a known commodity like Diontae Johnson.

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers have the worst record in the league, and they do not have a first-round pick. That is a terrible combination, especially when this team desperately needs some talent. Bryce Young is in an impossible situation, as Adam Thielen is the only receiver on the team that actually belongs in the NFL. Seeing as the Panthers have no way to add a high-caliber prospect, they should add Diontae Johnson and at least one other receiver in free agency. If Young still can’t perform in that environment, then the team will know it’s time to move on. Until then, however, there is no way to tell how good Young actually is.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers will have a new coach next year, and the first order of business should be finding more reliable wide receivers. Quentin Johnston looks like a bust, Mike Williams is always hurt, and Keenan Allen is not getting any younger. Diontae Johnson and Keenan Allen have similar games, so perhaps Los Angeles could use the 2024 campaign to see if the Steelers receiver has what it takes to be Allen’s long-term replacement. Both players can coexist in the same offense, so this move makes sense both in the short- and long-term.

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have spent the past few years trying to effectively undo the Amari Cooper trade. CeeDee Lamb is a star, but this team could use another reliable wide receiver. While Brandin Cooks has had a few flashes this year, he’s not the same player he once was. Diontae Johnson would be an ideal complement to CeeDee Lamb, as the two would form one of the better pass-catching duos in the league.

Main Photo: Joseph Maiorana – USA Today Sports


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