Steelers Land Former 2nd Round CB for WR Diontae Johnson in Rare Trade - Sport News

Steelers Land Former 2nd Round CB for WR Diontae Johnson in Rare Trade

Another Pittsburgh Steelers offseason rumor have come to fruition. The Steelers have moved on from wide receiver Diontae Johnson.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on March 12 that the Steelers agreed to trade Johnson to the Carolina Panthers for cornerback Donte Jackson. The teams also agreed to exchange 2024 Day 3 draft selections.

With Johnson entering the final year of his contract, trade rumors began to circulate this offseason around the 27-year-old receiver. The Steelers had until March 16 to deal Johnson before having to pay him a $3 million roster bonus.

In five seasons with the Steelers, Johnson posted 391 receptions, 4,363 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns.

With the trade speculation around Johnson, pundits questioned what kind of draft pick the veteran receive could be worth. But for Johnson, the Steelers pulled off a rare swap in which they landed a defensive starter.

In Jackson, the Steelers are receiving a cornerback who the Panthers drafted at No. 55 overall during the second round of the 2018 NFL draft. He has 76 games of starting experience.

Over 80 contests overall, Jackson has recorded 303 combined tackles, including 15 tackles for loss, 46 pass defenses and 14 interceptions.

The Steelers also received the No. 178 overall pick in the sixth round while sending Carolina the No. 240 selection in the seventh round.

Steelers Acquire Panthers CB Donte Jackson

After agreeing to a contract with quarterback Russell Wilson, it didn’t seem to make much sense for the Steelers to move on from Johnson because the Steelers appeared motivated to win immediately. But at least with Jackson, the Steelers are landing a starting cornerback.

Jackson started 16 of 17 contests, posting 59 combined tackles, including 5 tackles for loss and 5 pass defenses last season. He will help fill the void left from all the veteran cornerbacks the Steelers lost to free agency this offseason. The Steelers also released cornerback Patrick Peterson.

Although Peterson left open the possibility of returning to Pittsburgh, Jackson is now a candidate to replace Peterson in the starting lineup.

Like Johnson, Jackson is entering the final year of his contract. He will count as a $10.52 million cap hit although The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac suggested the possibility of the Steelers re-working his contract.

Still, some NFL pundits weren’t impressed with the Steelers receiving Jackson in return for Johnson.

“So the Steelers create a massive hole at WR, with no WR3 on the roster, and still have a big need at CB.” NFL analyst Jon Ledyard wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “Just a bizarre trade. Not much silver lining to find here. Bad”

The Score’s Daniel Valente wasn’t a fan of the deal from the Steelers’ perspective either.

“Getting him (Jackson) and a 6th-round pick for Diontae Johnson, the best route runner on the team, just seems like a bad return,” wrote Valente.

“Not enough back to justify making WR a huge need.”

How Steelers Replace WR Diontae Johnson

The Johnson-Jackson swap will look better for the Steelers if they re-work Jackson’s cap number. However, with Johnson’s departure, Pittsburgh must find another wide receiver.

George Pickens is the only wideout remaining on the Steelers roster who had more than 200 receiving yards last season.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport connecting the Steelers to Washington receiver Rome Odunze now makes a lot more sense. Rapoport mentioned the Steelers as a trade up candidate for the potential top 10 draft choice.

Obviously, Odunze isn’t the only option to replace Johnson. But with Johnson’s departure, the likelihood the Steelers draft a wide receiver within the first three rounds increases dramatically.

“Center and wide receiver Steelers biggest needs,” Steelers Depot’s Alex Kozora wrote. “We’ll see which comes in the first round.

“I had LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr. in the first round of my Monday mock draft. Think you’ll hear his name a lot more in the draft process.”

On the surface, it may be difficult to see why the Steelers elected to create another big draft need for what some would deem an average starting defender. But The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly reminded his X followers that the Steelers may have had little choice.

“100 percent Diontae Johnson wanted this trade like I said 2 weeks ago,” wrote Kaboly.

The Steelers senior writer theorized that Johnson was pushing for a trade to a team where he could either sign an extension or post a huge 2024 stat line to help himself in free agency.


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