With the record-setting extension for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick having officially been taken care of, the next major financial task to attend to for the Steelers is a second contract for wideout Diontae Johnson. As detailed by Mark Kaboly of the Athletic (subscription required), Pittsburgh will not deviate from their established procedures to get a deal done.
As Kaboly writes, Fitzpatrick was, understandably, deemed a higher priority for the team’s front office. New general manager Omar Khan demonstrated his willingness to make a sizeable financial commitment to the two-time All-Pro, but the same may not be true to the same extent in Johnson’s case.
Waiting until this period of the offseason is in line with standard financial planning for the Steelers, so it should come as little surprise that extension talks “will start soon,” per Kaboly. He is quick to add, however, that the team “won’t deviate much” from their internal valuation of Johnson once serious negotiations begin.
The former third-rounder has established himself as the Steelers’ top pass-catcher, increasing his production during each of his three seasons in the league. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in 2021, which led to his first Pro Bowl invite. That makes him the latest in a long line of Pittsburgh wideouts who have earned lucrative second contracts, but it remains to be seen if his will come from the Steelers, as few have in years past.
After JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington left in free agency this offseason, the team added George Pickens and Calvin Austin III in the draft. Johnson will stay atop the depth chart into 2022, but new faces in the front office could lead to a lower-valued contract offer than Johnson may presently expect.
The 25-year-old could seek, as other high-profile 2019 draftees have already, a deal which eclipses the $20MM-per-year mark; the skyrocketing WR market has seen the number of players earning that figure rise to 11. Kaboly posits that Johnson could be assured of an extension if he aims for the $16-18MM range, placing him one tier below the top wideouts.
With plenty of time still remaining between now and the start of the season – which is already known as the unofficial deadline for a deal to be worked out – this situation becoming the central focus for Pittsburgh should make it the top story to follow in the short-term.