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Diontae Johnson Did Not Request Trade, Mike Tomlin Says


The Pittsburgh Steelers made some rather surprising trades during the first week of free agency. Among those was shipping WR Diontae Johnson to the Carolina Panthers in return for CB Donte Jackson and sixth-for-seventh pick swap in the 2024 NFL Draft.

There were reports and rumors leading up to the trade that Johnson was available, and due to some effort issues last season that resulted in public shaming by the media, it was speculated that he could have wanted out of Pittsburgh. He was entering the final year of his contract, and with no reports of extension talk it would have made sense for him to want to move elsewhere. At the annual NFL owner’s meeting in Orlando, Mike Tomlin spoke to members of the Pittsburgh media and was asked about whether or not Johnson had requested his way out of town.

“We traded player for player, we had an opportunity to get [CB Donte Jackson],” Tomlin said according to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor on X. “He’s a guy that we’ve evaluated probably several times since he’s been in the league… [The Panthers] needed Diontae, we needed D Jack. It was a good exchange.”

Without an exact quote from Pryor, Tomlin confirmed that Johnson did not request his way out of town, but that the Steelers were just doing business in a player-for-player swap. They also had a need at cornerback with Patrick Peterson released from the roster, James Pierre signing elsewhere, and really no clear plan opposite Joey Porter Jr.

While they improved the cornerback situation, they created a hole on the roster at wide receiver opposite George Pickens. With the 2024 NFL Draft loaded with receiver talent, it is possible that they were more comfortable landing a receiver that they liked in the top rounds over the prospects of landing the right corner.

Jackson is a player that Tomlin has apparently been after for some time. They were at his LSU pro day before he was drafted back in 2018, and Jackson himself said that Tomlin has been after him for “years and years.”

He also restructured his contract after the trade which helped clear a little cap space versus what Johnson was owed. For a detailed breakdown of that contract and the impact on the salary cap, check out our Dave Bryan’s update posted in the days after the new deal was reportedly signed.

There are rumors swirling about potential interest from the Steelers in San Francisco 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk. There was also reported mutual interest between WR Tyler Boyd and the team. There are ways they can address the position before the draft, but there are also several names that could be impact players in the first or second round of the draft. The issue is the Steelers have other holes to fill in the roster, like center, and that could complicate acquiring the receiver they like in the early rounds.

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