Steelers may already be regretting their biggest mistake from the offseason

The Steelers made the surprise move to trade Diontae Johnson away, and that decision seems to be one that the team should be regretting right now.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) tries to cut back against the Bills.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) tries to cut back against the Bills. / Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and

The slow part of the offseason is upon us, and while the news is only trickling in as we wait on training camp in a few weeks, one thing has become apparent. While the team may not come out and say it, they should already be regretting the Diontae Johnson trade.

It was a shocking move early in the offseason when the Steelers announced that they had sent Johnson to the Panthers for Donte Jackson and a late-round pick swap. On the surface, the move made sense. Johnson wasn’t a great fit in this offense and has had attitude issues on occasion. While the return wasn’t great, you did land a starting cornerback for at least this year.

The caveat is that this team would have to find a new receiver to complement this offense. This draft class was deep at the position, and there were even a few quality free agents to go after. Instead, Pittsburgh stood pat and let the offseason roll with little investment in the position.

The biggest investment was a third-round pick in Roman Wilson. While I like the player and fit, and worked mostly out of the slot in school, and as a rookie there will likely be a learning curve before he can be counted on to start. Besides that, this team has added an army of low-end options on the cheap. No one seems like a great second option right now.

What is the Steelers plan?

There seem to be two main counterarguments to this team fumbling the receiver position this offseason. The first is that in a run-heavy offense, you don’t need a plethora of receivers to rely on. While Arthur Smith’s offenses have historically only featured one receiver, having depth is still important.

I have little issue with George Pickens being the main guy for the team this year, but if you don’t have anyone behind him then defenses will be able to key in on him and add coverages designed to stop him. On top of this, you are just one injury away from Van Jefferson (or some other middling name) being your top receiver. That seems like an unwise risk for a team with a brand-new quarterback room.

The other argument is that a trade for a superstar is still in the works. To me, that narrative seems to be fading. June 1 was a big milestone day, as teams could space out any dead money from a move over the next two seasons instead of one (similar to when a player is cut with a June first designation). For teams looking to space out dead money on a trade, June meant that it was open season.

No moves have been made, further evidence that a trade may not be in the works. Of the names floating around, Courtland Sutton has the most legs to it given his displeasure with the Broncos, but he is back attending sessions with the team. He could still be moved, but it isn’t overly likely at this point.

The Steelers should have had a better backup plan to not having Johnson this season. There were a handful of moderately priced veterans that could have been slotted into that second role with ease. Josh Reynolds, D.J. Chark, and Zay Jones all signed affordable deals and have a history with that role. They would have been great insurance.

Steelers reuniting with Cameron Sutton is a major win for the defense. Steelers reuniting with Cameron Sutton is a major win for the defense. dark. Next

Instead, the Steelers continue to have serious question marks about their receiver room. Sure, in theory, everything could work out fine, Pickens could have his monster year, and this proves to be a moot point. The problem is that if that doesn’t occur, this offense could stagnate again in 2024.