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Diontae Johnson’s Influence on George Pickens Was Not an Issue



Steelers WR George Pickens

Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette stated in a online chat last month that Diontae Johnson’s influence on George Pickens played a big role in Johnson being traded to Carolina. Although, he mentioned that Johnson was leaving Pittsburgh “one way or the other.”

“That was a large part of it, though it seems comical to think someone is about Pickens being badly influenced,” Dulac wrote.

Steelers Now sources confirmed tension between the Steelers and Johnson growing through the 2023 season, and that the Steelers saw a culture problem in their wide receivers room.

Pickens has displayed character issues since his college career at Georgia, so I’m not sure how much of a role Johnson had in Pickens acting like a prima donna at times. The Steelers’ concerns probably were centered more around Johnson’s mental lapses on the field.

During a recent Q&A, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic refuted the notion that Johnson had a bad influence on Pickens and that’s why he was traded.

“I don’t buy that at all,” Kaboly wrote. “Too many people had red flags on Pickens before he was drafted to pin anything on Johnson. Johnson was traded because he was heading into the final year of his contract, he wasn’t going to be re-signed and he felt the Steelers’ quarterback situation wasn’t going to put him in the position to cash out on another contract next year.”

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said at the NFL owner’s meetings that a desire to upgrade the team’s cornerback position was the driving force behind the team trading Johnson to the Panthers, and that Johnson did not specifically request a trade.

The Steelers got veteran cornerback Dontae Jackson in the Johnson trade package with Carolina, which Tomlin said fills an important need.

“Really, it was simple, man,” he said. “We traded player for player. We had an opportunity to get D-Jack (Donte Jackson). D-Jack is a guy that we’ve evaluated probably several times since he’s been in the league, when he came out of LSU, when he faced free agency. We needed some assistance in depth and quality players at that position, so we made the move. They needed Diontae, we needed D-Jack. It was a good exchange.”