Josh Rowntree, who covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for KDKA and 93.7 The Fan, joined The PM Team w/ Poni and Mueller Monday afternoon. He appeared shortly after Head Coach Mike Tomlin addressed the media to discuss his impressions of Monday’s practice and whether he was losing patience with wide receiver, Diontae Johnson and his current “hold-in.”
“This is a Diontae Johnson choice and Mike Tomlin doesn’t like it,” Rowntree responded. “But they are also giving him this ability. If the team wanted to make him practice, they absolutely could do it, or they could fine him.”
Johnson has been a constant source of discussion this spring entering the final year of his contract with the Steelers. The fourth-year wide receiver has made a Pro Bowl appearance and was the Steelers clear number one option in the passing game for the last two seasons. Rowntree is getting the impression that Tomlin is annoyed with the situation. He continued about Johnson.
“They’re the ones [the Steelers] who are enabling it. They let it go with T.J. Watt, they let it go with Minkah Fitzpatrick, so if that is the standard for this organization, then you can’t be mad when players try to exercise that option.”
Rowntree, the award-winning anchor and show host for 93.7 and KDKA is correct in pointing out that if the Steelers are going to allow this to go on, sooner or later, it is going to end badly. Players under the current collective bargaining agreement are unlikely to holdout going forward. It will not be completely out of the question, but if a team is going to allow the players who are up for a contract extension to report to camp and workout on the side to avoid injury and fines, only an extremely bad situation should result in a holdout.
Deebo Samuel and DK Metcalf have signed extensions over the last few days paying the NFC West stars in excess of $24 million dollars per year. Steelers fans are split into two camps on the enigmatic Johnson and his worth to the Steelers. Andrew Fillipponi for example is firmly in the camp that does not want to pay the man who led the Steelers in targets last season.
“If this were a situation where Johnson was a day or two away and a deal was really close, it’s like the baseball trade deadline, then okay it doesn’t make any sense to play you today. It’s like [Kevin] Colbert said the week of the draft, we want to pay special players and I don’t see Johnson as a special player.”
Aditi Kinkhabwala, the NFL reporter from CBS Sports and 93.7 The Fan, has previously reported that Johnson has not been offered anything from the Steelers and a deal is not imminent. It is hard to blame a player of Johnson’s caliber for protecting himself when generational wealth is being dispensed amongst his rookie classmates. No matter how you feel about his performance, it is hard to dispute that Johnson is anything less than a top 25 wide receiver.
Re-Signing Steelers’ Diontae Johnson Continues To Be Extremely Difficult With Scorching Wide Receiver Market in 2022
The wide receiver market has exploded in 2022, and the position is now the second highest paid behind quarterbacks on offense. It also arguably has passed the edge rusher position as the second highest paid in all of football. The NFL’s vested interest in scoring and passing stats has changed the league and who is going to be paid the most to play in it. If receivers really are a dime a dozen like many Steelers fans believe, than inflation may be worse than we think.
Even if the Steelers franchise tag Johnson next season, the price is likely to exceed the contracts that Metcalf and Samuel just received. The top five receivers in football are all making in excess of $25 million dollars. 14 players are now making more than $20 million dollars a year at his position, and someone is going to pay him. If the Steelers are intent on making him play on a “prove it” basis, it may be wise to consider selling high to a team like the Green Bay Packers who have a marquee quarterback and a serious need for an experienced number one option.
What do you think, Steeler Nation? Should the team sell high and move Johnson now, or pay him and get him back participating in team drills? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.