Steelers Rumors: Diontae Johnson 'Unhappy' with Contract Situation Amid OTA Absence

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 27, 2022

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 16: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) before an AFC wild card playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs on Jan 16, 2022 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson is sitting out the team's voluntary offseason team activities because of his contract situation, per Mark Kaboly of the Athletic.

"Johnson is unhappy with his current contract situation and trying to send a message through his lack of attendance. He is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and he knows if an extension isn’t agreed upon by the Sept. 11 opener, he will likely play the season without any security of a long-term deal as he heads into free agency."

As Kaboly noted, the Steelers appear to have the leverage at the moment.

"Johnson doesn’t want that, and what little leverage he has is sitting out OTAs. It’s an empty threat because Johnson doesn’t have much recourse in the matter. How the Steelers do business is they will offer Johnson what they believe is his market value, and there won’t be much wiggle room."

The 5'10", 183-pound Johnson has been a workhorse for the Steelers, especially after the team parted ways with Antonio Brown during the 2019 offseason.

The Steelers selected Johnson with the No. 66 overall selection in the 2019 NFL draft out of Toledo. He's been racking up targets ever since, averaging 135 per season for the past three years.

Johnson's 107 catches, 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns led the Steelers last year. Leaguewide, he finished fifth in catches and tied for second in targets.

"I know Diontae is grinding no matter where he is," teammate and fellow wideout Chase Claypool said.

"I know a lot of people are looking into it, but I am not looking into it too much because he is perfecting his craft, and he is going to come ball out."

Johnson is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Steelers could hypothetically place the franchise tag on Johnson for 2023 if the two sides don't agree to a long-term deal.

For now, Johnson has sat out three of the Steelers' six OTA practices. The final three will occur on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week.

Pittsburgh then has a three-day mandatory minicamp starting June 7.