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Mike Tomlin Reveals Why Steelers Traded Diontae Johnson



Steelers WR Diontae Johnson

ORLANDO Fla. — Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that a desire to upgrade the team’s cornerback position was the driving force behind the team trading veteran wide receiver Diontae Johnson to the Carolina Panthers earlier this month, 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.”

Though Tomlin denied that he requested a trade, as had been reported, Johnson seemed less and less happy over the years in Pittsburgh. In 2022, he reportedly got into an altercation with the quarterback Mitch Trubisky at halftime of the team’s Week 4 loss to the New York Jets. Last season, Johnson got into it with Minkah Fitzpatrick after a game. Johnson also wasn’t thrilled with Kenny Pickett possibly being his quarterback. He publicly expressed that he hoped Mason Rudolph would be the starter going forward. Johnson had been entering the final year of his two-year extension with the team.

Steelers WR Dionate Johnson

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson celebrates a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 15, 2024. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

When Jackson visited the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for the first time after being traded from Carolina, he mentioned to Dale Lolley of that Tomlin has been after him for years. Tomlin confirmed that in Orlando.

“Coach Tomlin, he was on me a lot coming out of college, and a lot when I was getting ready to sign my second contract,” Jackson said Wednesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “I signed a second contract with the Panthers and the Steelers were right there. This past trade deadline, they were right there. And now they’re right there again. So, I just feel like it’s meant to be. I can’t even express the amount of respect and gratitude I have for this organization for not only taking the chance on me but making me a guy that they focus on getting, that they really showed they wanted for years and years now. I’m finally getting to be here.

“I feel like it happened at the time it was supposed to happen. I’ve been playing my best ball. I’m just happy to get out there with this great defense and shock the league. I just can’t wait.”

Alan Saunders contributed reporting from Orlando.