Steelers Diontae Johnson is worth more than a $ 36.71 extension

Diontae Johnson's new contract extension does not do justice to its production.

Diontae Johnson’s new contract extension does not do justice to its production.
photo: AP

The last of the stars to hold out (or in) during contract negotiations, Diontae Johnson has finally struck a pleasant deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. For Johnson to hold out longer than the likes of Deebo Samuel and DK Metcalf, it must have been a solid deal, which rivaled the $ 25 million a year AJ Brown received in early May.

huh? Two years? Less than $ 20 million a year? What happened? Were eight touchdowns and 1,200 yards with the ghost of Big Ben not enough for something bigger? When JuJu Smith-Schuster got injured and carried the passing attack on his shoulders not as much as the Steelers hoped?

Between Mike Williams, Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, Samuel, AJ Brown and Johnson, the Steelers WR finished second in yards received in 2021. He finished third in touchdowns received and first in receptions. Since early 2020, Johnson has been third in yards, third in touchdowns and first in receptions, all playing with arguably the worst quarterback of the bunch. Scary Terry’s situation has always been pretty bad and it could be argued that Jimmy Garoppolo has been worse in the past couple of years than Ben Roethlisberger, but Johnson’s quarterback situation has been far from desirable recently. Yet despite those numbers and the fact that of those other five receivers, only DK Metcalf is younger, Johnson has earned the least amount of money annually, and that’s his maximum salary. His total base contract value is nearly $ 3 million less than his maximum.

Even worse is Johnson’s contract length. Sure, he’s entering his prime, but now he has two years to prove he’s worth something in an open market. What’s his quarterback situation? Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, and untried rookie Kenny Pickett, who some people have compared to the likes of Taylor Heinicke. Yes, it is no better than Roethlisberger.

The only thing the Steelers did to help Johnson succeed immediately was George Pickens’ leverage. While you might argue that Pickens will steal targets from Johnson, at least it will attract attention as well. Since Smith-Schuster is no longer a factor in the offense, I doubt Johnson share of destination (tied with Davante Adams for second-most goals in the NFL last year), who finished fifth in the NFL last season, will drop that much. Even if he does, Johnson’s insane numbers are proof of how vital he was to the success of the Steelers’ attack. Do you really think they would have made the playoffs last year if it weren’t for Johnson’s ability to push the attack on the baseline?

Najee Harris averaged less than four yards per load. His 1,200 running yards was the maximum of a player averaging less than four yards charged by Rashard Mendenhall in 2010. Can you imagine how low that number of yards per attempt would be if Johnson wasn’t at least producing some value. from the outside? Smith-Schuster was injured. Claypool underperformed. Freiermuth didn’t come on until mid-season and never eclipsed 60 yards in a single game all season.

The only reliable weapon the Steelers had was Johnson. In the three biggest team wins of the year (week 1 at BUF, week 13 against BAL and week 17 at BAL), Johnson scored 20 receptions, 192 yards and three touchdowns. He grew up when the Steelers needed him most. He deserves better than what he’s getting.