The final of the star wideouts holding out (or in) throughout contract negotiations, Diontae Johnson lastly got here to an agreeable contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. For Johnson to carry out longer than the likes of Deebo Samuel and DK Metcalf, it will need to have been a strong deal, one which rivaled the $25 million per 12 months that AJ Brown obtained in early Could.
Huh? Two years? Lower than $20 million a 12 months? What occurred? Have been eight touchdowns and 1,200 yards with the ghost of Large Ben not sufficient for something higher? Was taking up when JuJu Smith-Schuster received injured and carrying the passing assault on his shoulders not fairly as a lot because the Steelers have been hoping for?
Between Mike Williams, Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, Samuel, AJ Brown, and Johnson, the Steelers’ WR ranked second in receiving yards in 2021. He ranked third in receiving touchdowns and first in receptions. For the reason that begin of 2020, Johnson ranks third in yards, third in touchdowns, and first in receptions, all whereas taking part in with arguably the worst quarterback of the bunch. Scary Terry’s state of affairs has all the time been fairly dangerous, and you possibly can argue that Jimmy Garoppolo has been worse over the previous two years than Ben Roethlisberger, however nonetheless, Johnson’s quarterback state of affairs has been lower than fascinating not too long ago. But regardless of these numbers and the truth that of these different 5 receivers, solely DK Metcalf is youthful, Johnson earned the smallest quantity of annual cash, and that’s his most wage. The bottom complete worth of his contract is almost $3 million lower than its most.
Even worse is Johnson’s contract size. Certain, he’s going into his prime, however now he’s received two years to show he’s price one thing on an open market. What’s his quarterback state of affairs? Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, and unproven rookie Kenny Pickett, who some individuals have in comparison with the likes of Taylor Heinicke. Yeah, that’s not higher than Roethlisberger.
The one factor the Steelers did to assist Johnson succeed instantly was draft George Pickens. Whilst you might make an argument that Pickens will take targets away from Johnson, he’ll at the least draw consideration away as nicely. Provided that Smith-Schuster is now not an element within the offense, I doubt Johnson’s goal share (tied with Davante Adams for the second-most targets within the NFL final 12 months), which ranked fifth-highest within the NFL final season, will drop that a lot. Even when it does, Johnson’s insane goal numbers are proof of simply how important he has been to the success of the Steelers offense. Do you actually assume they’d have made the playoffs final 12 months if not for Johnson’s potential to push the offense downfield?
Najee Harris was averaging lower than 4 yards a carry. His 1,200 speeding yards have been essentially the most by a participant averaging lower than 4 yards a carry since Rashard Mendenhall in 2010. Might you think about how low that yards per try quantity could be if Johnson wasn’t at the least producing some worth from the skin? Smith-Schuster was harm. Claypool underperformed. Freiermuth didn’t come on till halfway by means of the season and by no means eclipsed 60 yards in a single sport all season.
The one dependable weapon the Steelers had was Johnson. Within the crew’s three greatest wins of the 12 months (Week 1 at BUF, Week 13 v BAL, and Week 17 at BAL), Johnson went for 20 receptions, 192 yards, and three touchdowns. He got here up large when the Steelers wanted him most. He deserves higher than what he’s getting.