Steelers Avoided Chiefs’ Trade Request for Disgruntled WR - Sport News

Steelers Avoided Chiefs’ Trade Request for Disgruntled WR

It turns out that the Kansas City Chiefs reached out to the Pittsburgh Steelers regarding a trade for wide receiver Diontae Johnson, per NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo.

Sure-handed Steelers WR Diontae Johnson coming into his own - The San Diego Union-Tribune

But according to Garafolo, Pittsburgh did what it could to avoid trading Johnson to the two-time Super Bowl champions because of the their status in the AFC.

“(Diontae Johnson) had permission, his agent did… to seek a trade,” Garafolo said on NFL Total Access on March 12. “They talked to a few teams. The Kansas City Chiefs, they had conversations with them at some point. But it didn’t seem like they’d trade him within the AFC to a contender, if possible. Sending him to the NFC to the Carolina Panthers, who have been looking to add receivers since last year.”

There’s a price to pay when you’re at the top of the food chain, which includes other teams opting to not make your team better than it already is.

Instead of trading Johnson to the Chiefs, the Steelers opted to trade Johnson and a seventh-round pick to Carolina in exchange for cornerback Donte Jackson and a sixth-round pick, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Diontae Johnson Ready for a Fresh Start

Johnson, 27, entered the NFL as a third-round pick — 66th overall — of the Steelers in 2019 out of Toledo.

Standing at 5-foot-10 and weighing 183 pounds, Johnson doesn’t beat NFL cornerbacks with physicality. However, his great footwork, acceleration, and shiftiness outweigh his size and speed (ran a 4.53 40-yard dash to the NFL Scouting Combine) to help him get open regularly.

Johnson’s best season to date was in 2021, which was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s final season in the NFL. During that season, Johnson recorded career-highs in targets (166), catches (107), receiving yards (1,161), and touchdowns (8), per PFF.

But the departure of Roethlisberger in 2022 and the arrival of quarterbacks Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky and receiver George Pickens impacted Johnson’s production negatively.

After registering an 86-882-0 stat line during the 2022 season, Johnson’s 2023 season included some of his lowest single-season totals across the board since his rookie season (51 catches, 717 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns).

Inconsistent QB play as well as poor play-calling by offensive coordinator Matt Canada (who was fired in-season) left Johnson frustrated, which impacted his play on the field during the 2023 season.

The Steelers did recently sign QB Russell Wilson and also hired Arthur Smith to be their offensive coordinator. But there’s still uncertainty as to how Pittsburgh’s offense will operate moving forward.

Johnson will now play in Carolina and is projected to be second-year QB Bryce Young‘s top target for the 2024 season.

Chiefs Must Look Elsewhere for WR Help

The Chiefs, who have a lot of unproven commodities at receiver outside of second-year wideout Rashee Rice, would have been a great fit for Johnson. As a player who is capable of playing multiple receiver roles, Johnson would have provided another safety valve for QB Patrick Mahomes, which would improve Kansas City’s offense overall.

Kansas City must look at other trade options, free agency, and the draft to fill out its receiver.

After Mahomes restructured his contract on March 12 in a cap-saving maneuver that freed up $21.6 million, the Chiefs have $15.3 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap.

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