PITTSBURGH — Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson was not in attendance when Pittsburgh kicked off their organized team activities on Tuesday, and has not been throughout the week, but fellow wide receiver Chase Claypool said he doesn’t think it’s a big deal that the team’s most veteran receiver did not participate in the first week of OTAs.
“I know Diontae. He’s grinding no matter where he is,” Claypool said Thursday. “I know a lot of people are looking into it, but I wouldn’t look into it too much, because he’s perfecting his craft and he’s going to come and ball out.”
Johnson is not the only Steelers veteran that has had less than full participation, but he is also seeking a long-term extension as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. Unfortunately for the Steelers, the timing of Johnson’s impending extension talks came just as the NFL’s wide receiver market exploded this offseason.
Las Vegas’ Devante Adams, Miami’s Tyreek Hill and Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs were just some of the elite pass catchers that cashed in over recent months. According to Spotrac, Johnson could command a four-year, $88 million deal, which would be the largest contract given to a wide receiver in franchise history by far. For reference, Antonio Brown’s 2017 extension only paid him $68 million over four years.
It’s not clear if the contract negotiations are the reason that Johnson has chose to work out on his own so far this year after largely participating in OTAs in the past. But regardless of the reason, Claypool doesn’t think it will impact Johnson’s performance on the gridiron this fall.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Claypool said. “People will make it a big deal because they need clicks and stuff, but it’s not a big deal. We’re going to get work in in the offseason.”
Originally a third round selection out of Toledo, Johnson has led the Steelers in receiving yards and touchdowns each of the last two seasons. Johnson earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2021 to the tune of 107 receptions, 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns.
That being said, Johnson has not always demonstrated the surest hands over his first three seasons. He led the league with 13 drops in 2020, and had a pair in Pittsburgh’s playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last January.
Pittsburgh let Ray-Ray McCloud, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington all walk in free agency, but did select a pair of wide receivers in George Pickens and Calvin Austin III in April’s 2022 NFL Draft.