Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson has requested a trade out of Chicago following a lack of fruitful contract negotiations between himself and the Bears over the last few weeks. Johnson is a free agent this offseason, meaning that any team that acquires him would have to give him a contract on top of trading the Bears’ compensation. But he immediately becomes the best cornerback on the market since it does not appear Patrick Surtain II will legitimately be traded. Could the Steelers be one of those teams that Johnson could land with on Tuesday?
Johnson, 24, is having a career year. He makes plenty of sense for the Steelers. He has enough length to walk up the line and plays his game with an edge. With the Bears sputtering and looking to move guys at the deadline, Johnson could be someone the Steelers look to target with the cornerback room still up in the air. Joey Porter Jr. is set to get more reps coming out of another strong game, but the team needs to see guys like Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace take a step forward.
Coming out of Utah, Johnson was a hyped-up prospect for his versatility, as he could work out of multiple coverage schemes well. He has done that at the NFL level so far. Coming into the year, he was not an elite cornerback, but Johnson has cemented himself as a solid starting cornerback in his years in the NFL. If a trade happened, the Steelers would have to give up some significant compensation despite Johnson’s expiring contract.
Regardless, given the Steelers’ scheme and what they want out of their cornerbacks, he is a viable offseason target. Johnson could be a guy who helps bring the secondary back into lockstep with the rest of the defense. We are talking about a high day two pick to land him. Pittsburgh may have to give up a 2024 second-rounder to compete with the field, and that is certainly a lot to ask, but Johnson has played at a high level.
Acquiring Johnson would set the Steelers up with a cornerback tandem of himself and Porter, relegating the cornerback room to becoming one of the youngest in football, with the two bookends at 24 and 23 years old, respectively. This is the shooting for the stars’ move of the deadline. If Omar Khan wants to make a serious splash, you get a guy like Johnson to lock in the cornerback room for the future.
I would lean against this happening. The biggest reason? Many playoff contenders, like the 49ers, could be willing to give up a first-round pick for Johnson. I can’t see the Steelers parting ways with that for Johnson, even if the idea of him coming to the Steelers is enticing.