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Steelers Supporting Diontae Johnson During Hold-In at Training Camp



Diontae Johnson Steelers

UNITY TWP., Pa. — Diontae Johnson is holding in at Steelers training camp. Much like T.J. Watt did in 2021 and Minkah Fitzpatrick did in minicamp, Johnson is going through with the plan that those before him laid out. While for Johnson that was always an idea, it was not under the direction of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

Instead, Tomlin signaled on Wednesday that it was not his decision to have Johnson practice in a limited fashion. Once individual drills were over, Johnson went off the side with a personal trainer. That was the same thing he did on Wednesday. But Tomlin was not directing Johnson to do that.

“I acknowledge that he was less than 100% participant, and we’ll continue to manage the circumstances. But right now my energy and focus are on those who are participating… it was not (my decision).”

The Reverberating Effect

With Johnson out of it, it gave opportunities to some young guys. Those include rookies like Calvin Austin and George Pickens. However, the player who got a chance in his place was Cody White. White made the team last year in a limited capacity. While he never truly got going on offense, he was a quality special teamer and teammate. Now, afforded the opportunity, White is looking to take advantage. However, the hold-in of Johnson is of no concern for White and the wide receivers.

“He’s for sure still part of the room,” White said. “We don’t take that any type of way. We just go out and do our job and do what we can for the team. We don’t ever try to look at another man’s pockets or what’s going on with anybody else. For us, we’re just trying to do what we can for the team.”

The hold-in could cause someone to call him selfish. It could just be about business. The team views it the latter way. Cam Sutton has no doubts about the intentions of Johnson and what he is trying to do. Instead, Sutton is about the team staying even-keeled, and more importantly, supporting Johnson. Johnson’s hold-in is serious, but he still is in all the meetings and continues to mentor young players for the Steelers.

“This is a guy who has put in the work,” Sutton said. “You know, great things are going to happen for him. We craft together in the offseason, and we train together in the offseason, so I know where his mind is at as far as being with the team and about the team. And listen, he’s all about that. He’s not a selfish guy, not one bit. He’s ready to play. All the other stuff that I can’t control, but it will get situated. He’ll be fine and we’ll be glad to have him back out here. It’s great to even see him out here still being around the room and being a leader for those young guys.”

Veterans Lobby for Diontae Johnson

The debate from many is still asking about whether or not Johnson has earned the contract he desires. While the exact figures that he wants are not out there, Johnson could potentailly want north of $20 million a year with the inflated wide receiver market. There are few guys that can vouch better for Johnson than his former quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. For two years, Johnson was Roethlisberger’s favorite target.

Today, appearing on WDVE Radio, Roethlisberger championed Johnson’s skillset. Not only that, he called for Johnson to get a nice payday because he deserves it. While the Steelers said back in April they would only pay top dollar for special players, Roethlisberger put Johnson squarely in that group of special players.

“I was texting with Diontae a couple of days ago before you guys went to camp,” Roethlisberger said. “He filled me in on some stuff and I told him ‘listen, you are an unbelievable football player and it can be frustrating at times’… I know he probably wants something. You know, I think he deserves a contract. He’s played really, really well, and he’s one of if not the best player on that offense. So, I think as this season goes on, I hope he’s out there playing. They’re going to need him on offense. He is a special talent.”

Another key veteran that sets the tone for the locker room is Cam Heyward. With Heyward, he sees it in a very similar light to Watt’s situation last year. Heyward also sees where they are coming from when they are not participating. While he would prefer Johnson out on the field, there is a level of mutual understanding that allows Heyward to empathize with Johnson. As such, Heyward is making no big deal out of it.

“I see exactly where he’s coming from,” Heyward said. “You know, T.J. had a situation. Like, even before I got here, I remember guys talking about Hines holding out. Then, they got Hines here and that was a big thing. Everybody’s got their own situation and how they handle it differently. If it’s not disrupting the team, then it’s no concern to us.”

The locker room is not pushing outwardly against Johnson. Instead, they are empathizing with him as he tries to get a new contract before the season.