Steelers won’t totally back up Brinks truck for Diontae Johnson

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports) /

Pittsburgh Steelers fans need to enjoy watching Diontae Johnson in 2022 because the likelihood they’ll pay him enough to keep him long-term is low.

Diontae Johnson is entering a contract year with hopes of commanding a contract similar to the one Washington just gave Terry McLaurin.

It doesn’t look like he’ll get it from the Steelers though.

McLaurin got a three-year deal from the Commanders, reportedly worth $23 million per year. Mark Kaboly of The Athletic threw cold water on the idea of Pittsburgh giving the receiver anything close to that.

Steelers aren’t expected to pay Diontae Johnson big money in free agency

“[The Steelers] aren’t offering him anything near McLaurin or anybody else that got more than $20 million per year. 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,” Kaboly wrote in a recent mailbag. “…The Steelers aren’t paying a receiver $22 million per year.”

One look at the current Pittsburgh receiver room shows they aren’t even paying a receiver $3 million at the moment.

Rookie George Pickens is the highest-earning receiver on the roster thanks to his $2 million signing bonus. Johnson and Miles Boykin are making $2.7 and $2.5 million respectively. Chase Claypool is bringing in $1.2 million.

JuJu Smith-Schuster made $8 million in 2021.

So basically, Pittsburgh hasn’t really shelled out money for a receiver since Antonio Brown, and that ultimately went downhill for them.

Johnson could certainly convince the team to make a major investment in him. It won’t be easy with uncertainty at the quarterback spot but the receiver is coming off his first Pro Bowl nod with 107 receptions, 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns to his name in 2021. And that was catching passes from a near-retirement Ben Roethlisberger.

If Kenny Pickett exceeds early expectations and emerges as the starting QB and Johnson builds a strong enough rapport with him, pairing up the two could make the investment worth it.

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