Monday, August 15, 2022

Steelers’ Diontae Johnson doesn’t rule out skipping training camp practice while seeking new contract

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USATSI

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that he doesn’t anticipate any contract-related training camp drama from wide receiver Diontae Johnson, even as the Pro Bowler seeks a long-term extension ahead of a contract year. Johnson, however, isn’t promising he won’t skip practice at some point. Despite reporting to camp Wednesday and emphasizing he wants to remain with Pittsburgh in 2022 and beyond, the wideout implied that his agent may advise against full participation in camp absent a new deal.

“We’ll see,” Johnson said when asked about his practice availability. The fourth-year veteran added that if it were up to him, he’d be a full participant, but that other factors are at play. He explained that he’s spoken with teammates T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick about their own previous contract negotiations with the team, reiterating his desire to strike a deal with the Steelers.

“I mean, I want to be here,” Johnson told reporters. “I wanna be here long term. That’s up to them. I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing.”

A third-round draft pick of the Steelers in 2018, the 26-year-old Johnson is under contract through 2022, but several other young pass catchers, including A.J. Brown and Terry McLaurin, got lucrative extensions this offseason, adding to a widespread inflation of the receiver market. It’s possible Johnson, due just over $3 million in 2022, could seek at least $20M per year on a long-term deal, considering five other similarly aged and productive wideouts eclipsed that annual average on contracts this year.

Despite a noted bout with dropped passes in 2020, Johnson has steadily emerged as the Steelers’ steadiest receiver in three NFL seasons. After logging 680 receiving yards as a rookie, he caught 88 passes for 923 yards during Pittsburgh’s hot start in 2020, then broke out with a career-high 107 catches for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021.

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