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Reasons Disclosed on Why Diontae Johnson Was Traded



Steelers WR Diontae Johnson

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said at the NFL owner’s meetings in late March 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, 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 felt was an essential 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.

According to The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly, the uncertainty at the quarterback position played a big factor in Johnson wanting out. It was also unlikely that the Steelers were going to re-sign Johnson after 2024, so it came down to a business decision for both sides.

“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,” Kaboly wrote.

Panthers head coach Dave Canales is stoked to have Johnson in Carolina. He’s a player that he’s been watching and studying for a long time.

“The word I like to say is, I want to compete against our roster every year so there isn’t complacency,” Canales said, via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I want it so there isn’t anyone who can say I’m safe here. No, let’s challenge our roster. The goal for the receiver room was let’s challenge the explosiveness, let’s challenge the one-on-one matchup, and Diontae is a guy I’ve been watching for a long time.”

Canales’ first NFL job was the receivers coach for the Seattle Seahawks. He spent eight seasons in that role before getting his first head coaching job this year. He previously was in Tampa Bay.

“Diontae can release against the best corners in the league and get open and be available for the quarterback,” Canales said. “He really has a dynamic style of play that I thought we were missing. I wanted to look at more ways we could add that explosiveness to our pass game. He was a big piece of it.”