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Report: Steelers Traded Diontae Johnson Because of Maturity Issues

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Steelers WR Diontae Johnson
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson against the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 2, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Diontae Johnson reportedly expressed that he wanted out of Pittsburgh, but 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 the veteran receiver to to Carolina in exchange for Donte Jackson.

Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette doesn’t buy Tomlin’s explanation. He claims Johnson was a “big issue” in the locker room and that’s why the Steelers offloaded him.

“That’s why they traded Diontae Johnson. He was an older guy, but he was still making a lot of youthful mistakes and not always acting his age or what was best for that receiver room,” Fittipaldo said during an appearance on Press Coverage on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

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.

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Diontae Johnson

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 23, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

In 2022, Johnson reportedly got into an altercation with 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 the Steelers’ loss to Cleveland in Week 11.

Fittipaldo’s colleague Gerry Dulac said in March that Johnson’s influence on George Pickens played a big role in the trade also. Although, he mentioned that Johnson was leaving Pittsburgh “one way or the other.”

Johnson recently said that he’s carrying a chip on his shoulder. He feels like he doesn’t get enough respect.

“I’m a diamond in the rough and I’m just going to continue to keep elevating. I carry that chip wherever I go ’cause I still get overlooked. I feel like I don’t get the respect I deserve sometimes, so that just makes me go harder. I’m going to keep putting it on film and proving to the league that I’m one of the best separators out there,” Johnson said at Panthers minicamp last Tuesday.

Johnson told reporters that he’s been overlooked since high school. Citing that he didn’t receive a lot of college offers and played at Toledo. So flying under the radar is nothing new for him.

Johnson was hot and cold with the Steelers. While productive, he was wildly inconsistent. Some of the mishaps were just maddening. The mental lapse and loss of focus against Cincinnati this past year is the first play that comes to mind.