Is Steelers WR Diontae Johnson prepared to hold out for an extension?

Diontae Johnson #18 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Diontae Johnson #18 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Diontae Johnson was a no-show for the start of the Steelers voluntary offseason programs. Is he prepared to hold out in 2022 if he doesn’t get an extension?

The NFL Draft is the talk of the town right now, but as we anxiously await Pittsburgh’s upcoming draft choices, one Steelers player has found that his name has recently become a hot topic of discussion.

Diontae Johnson has expressed this offseason that he wants a new extension with one year remaining on his current contract. Sadly, the wide receiver market was thrown through a loop during the 2021 free agency period.

After former Cardinals slot receiver, Christian Kirk, raked in $18 million per season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the price of young, productive receivers has gone up. Johnson was once projected to be below this number in terms of yearly value; however, after recent contracts around the league, Spotrac now estimates that he could earn $22 million per season on his new deal.

This figure has come with a great deal of controversy, as fans are split down the middle on what the Steelers should do. Knowing that his contract numbers are going to be much higher than originally anticipated, Pittsburgh’s front office and Johnson’s agent might not be very close when it comes to negotiations (something the team won’t even look to address until after the NFL Draft.

When Diontae Johnson didn’t show up for the first day of voluntary offseason workouts, it put Steelers fans (and some analysts) through a tailspin on social media, and they fear that this could be the beginning stage of a holdout. But will it be?

Will Steelers WR hold out for a new deal?

I would caution against reading too much into Johnson’s absence from voluntary offseason workouts (they are, after all, voluntary). However, I’d be lying if I said a holdout wasn’t possible.

Johnson isn’t going to want to lose money by letting this linger into the 2022 season, but I think it’s entirely possible that the young wide receiver misses much of training camp if his party and the Steelers front office have yet to reach an agreement on a new deal.

I get the reasoning behind this (at least from the agent’s perspective). His client is due for a massive payday that could make him one of the NFL’s top-10 highest-paid wide receivers. However, any potential major injury during training camp could jeopardize any chance of that happening.

We saw something very similar happen with T.J. Watt this past offseason. Though Watt had much more leverage as a two-time All-Pro pass rusher prior to earning his new deal, it was his agent’s decision to have him sit out all preseason and training camp until the new extension was in the works.

Johnson’s agent knows how important he is to Pittsburgh’s operation in 2022, and the team already lost three wide receivers in free agency this offseason. Johnson stands to be a pivotal piece of the puzzle this year, and it’s unlikely he’s going to take any sort of team-friendly discount.

3 trade-down possibilities for Steelers in the 2022 NFL Draft. light. Trending

The Steelers typically don’t hand out extensions to non-quarterbacks while they are still under contract, but they made an exception for T.J. Watt last year. I wouldn’t read into the Diontae Johnson rumors you’ve been hearing, but it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.