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2024 NFL Draft

Steelers Face Uphill Climb if They Want Jaylon Johnson

The Pittsburgh Steelers may want to pursue Jaylon Johnson in free agency but there are significant hurdles to that.



Steelers CB Jaylon Johnson Trade Deadline
Chicago Bears' Jaylon Johnson warms up before an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

INDIANAPOLIS — The Pittsburgh Steelers expressed interest in Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson at the trade deadline. They were in on him until the last minute, pulling back only because they could not agree on draft compensation with Chicago. Now, Johnson could be franchise-tagged by the Bears, but general manager Ryan Poles hopes to extend Johnson if they can.

“Cash flows are strong. Guarantees are strong. The term is ‘strong’ for him,” Poles said about Johnson. “At his age, there’s a really good opportunity for him to go back to the market again and continue to earn money and play well, and hopefully that’s with the Bears for a long period of time. I think there is really good space for us to find the middle ground. Again, we always have the tag to use. But I really would like to get something done long term. We feel like we’ve done a really good job of coming to the table strong, showing him the respect that he’s due in terms of his production through his career and really with an emphasis on the turnovers he created this past year. Our expectation is that is going to continue to go as he is with the Bears.”

At the Pro Bowl, Johnson detailed where his mindset was this offseason and what he will look for in a new contract.

“Heart’s definitely in Chicago, mind’s definitely on the money,” Johnson told at Saturday’s Pro Bowl practice. “So, I mean, we’ll figure out if we can make them both come together and get something done. I’m looking forward to see what’s to come.”

The fourth-year-pro drew a strong market on the trade market, with the Steelers among four teams that reportedly showed a persistent interest in Johnson. The San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles were also in on the conversations surrounding the 24-year-old.

Johnson was the No. 50 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the fourth-year pro had a career season. He shot his value up throughout the season and is now set to be paid well.

Levi Wallace, Chandon Sullivan, and James Pierre are free agents this offseason and the team will have to add a cornerback but with a deep draft, that could look to go that route. The team saw a promising rookie season from Joey Porter Jr. but has to make a decision on Patrick Peterson, who is heading into his 14th NFL season.

And while Johnson is one of the dream scenarios, it certainly seems like Pittsburgh would either have to trade for him or wait another year for him to hit the market.