Steelers Fitzpatrick, Johnson are going to have to wait on new contracts
By Tommy Jaggi
Minkah Fitzpatrick and Diontae Johnson are searching for rich, new extensions, but here’s why the Steelers won’t talk contracts until after the NFL Draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are about to run into more cap space than they’ve ever had in 2022 but don’t be so quick to think that they are going to start handing out new deals right away.
Last year, Kevin Colbert broke protocol to give a non-quarterback a rich new extension while he was still under contract. That player, of course, was T.J. Watt, and he was clearly worth every penny they gave him so far.
This offseason, the Steelers have two talented, young football players who are earnestly seeking new contracts in All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Pro Bowl alternate wide receiver, Diontae Johnson. Both Fitzpatrick and Johnson are expected to be crucial pieces of the puzzle moving forward and have earned their keep, but that doesn’t mean they are going to get their desired deals right away.
Kevin Colbert addressed the media while in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine. When asked about future contract extensions, Colbert expressed that the team would not be beginning any of these talks until sometime after the NFL Draft.
Steelers shouldn’t wait too long on new contracts
Unfortunately, this could mean that Minkah and Diontae still won’t have their new deals by the summer and it’s possible that we could experience some ‘hold-ins’ just like we saw with Watt this past season. This often isn’t by choice of the player; rather their agent does not want them to participate in practices with the chance of suffering a major injury before they get their new contract.
What could really prolong the process is if the two sides are way off in terms of numbers. If Diontae Johnson wants to be paid elite top-10 receiver money, the Steelers and Johnson’s agent could have a hard time finding a solution.
Of course, there’s always the chance that the Steelers won’t hand out these extensions at all this year and that they don’t negotiate while they are still under contract — something they have sworn by in the past.
However, with the rapidly changing game, we have seen the NFL front office catch up with the changing times, and Pittsburgh won’t be able to be the only exception.
Though the Steelers exercised the fifth-year option for Fitzpatrick, I do think they get a deal done with the two-time All-Pro safety sometime this summer, as he is a player they aren’t going to want to upset and he will be a big part of their future.
As far as Johnson goes, it’s hard to say. He bounced back from a very shaky 2020 season with a solid all-around performance in 2021, and he’s clearly the team’s number one receiver.
At the end of the day, I think both of these guys are going to be in Pittsburgh for a long time. We don’t know exactly when their new deals will come, but we know the Steelers aren’t going to do any negotiating until sometime after the 2022 NFL Draft.