The Steelers were reportedly aggressively pursuing Jaylon Johnson leading up to the Trade Deadline, but nothing ever materialized. The Steelers and Bears clearly had different opinions on what the return for him should be, and thus couldn't come to a deal.
Johnson would have filled a need at the cornerback position, and at 24 years old could have been a core piece of the defense for years to come. However, he was on an expiring contract, and keeping him would also require signing him to an extension. If the Steelers do truly love him as a player, then there's no reason to believe they can't sign him during Free Agency this offseason.
Missing Out on Johnson Saves Money and Draft Capital
While he undoubtedly would've been an upgrade over Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace, some believed that the Bears wanted a second or third round pick in return, which is a high price to pay for a rental. Saving the draft pick will be key for the Steelers as they still do have holes at numerous positions including cornerback, slot corner, and center.
Add to this the fact that Peterson and Wallace still have money on the books and it would have made the cornerback room a lot more expensive. The majority of the Steeler's cap space is dedicated to the defensive side of the ball, and that is extremely rare in today's game. While it has led them to be a competitive team, they have not been explosive enough on offense to make any legitimate noise in the playoffs for quite some time. I'm not so sure that spending big money on another defensive player is the solution to the Steelers' biggest issues.
The Steelers can Reevaluate the Team in the Offseason and Make their Big Moves then
The Steelers are in a tough spot, as they are a competitive team, that would be sitting in a playoff spot if the season ended today. However, it is impossible to deny that they have flaws. The team has struggled to move the ball with any consistency on offense, they appear to sleepwalk through the first halves of games, they struggle to stop the run, and their secondary has been torched by opposing teams' top receivers.
Come the offseason the Steelers will have had an entire season with Pickett under their belt, will likely have moved on and found a new offensive coordinator, and will have more flexibility to move on from some players that they don't see as part of their future. keeping the draft capital and saving the extra money they would have been paying him right now is a blessing in disguise for the Steelers.
And come this offseason, Johnson will be a free agent, if the team is still a big fan of his, then they can make an offer for him in Free Agency. In this scenario, they will have kept the draft capital they would've had to trade to acquire him, while still paying him the big deal they would've been forced to sign him to if they traded for him. or, they may decide he's not worth the money, and they can find someone else who is much more cost effective at the cornerback position while allocating the additional money to other needs on the roster.
While fans aren't happy that the team stayed silent at the Trade Deadline, they should put their faith in Omar Khan. He undoubtedly was making calls at the trade deadline, and just didn't think the price tag to acquire whoever he inquired on was worth it. Even though the Steelers are competitive and could no doubt make a push for the playoffs this year, their Super Bowl window has not truly opened yet, so mortgaging too much of future assets for a player wouldn't have been wise.
Omar Khan knows what he is doing, and making no move at the Deadline was likely a blessing in disguise, that will set the Steelers up better for the future.