Steelers Projected to Target Potential Diontae Johnson Replacement - Sport News

Steelers Projected to Target Potential Diontae Johnson Replacement

The Pittsburgh Steelers have drafted a lot of wide receivers in the second round over the past decade. But the Steelers haven’t selected a wideout in the first round since Santonio Holmes in 2006.

Diontae Johnson

ESPN’s Matt Miller, though, predicted the Steelers to end that first-round receiver drought. Miller slotted Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze to the Steelers at No. 14 in his latest mock draft.

In his analysis of the potential pick, Miller argued Odunze could eventually replace Diontae Johnson.

“Diontae Johnson’s contract expires at the end of 2024, so there’s room for Pittsburgh to add a physical, downfield threat with elite after-the-catch ability to the depth chart,” Miller wrote. “Odunze has been the WR1 at Washington for three seasons, catching 25 touchdowns in that time while proving himself to be one of the most physical wideouts in college football.

“The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Odunze could pair with George Pickens to form a duo that would rival Cincinnati’s WR group in the AFC North.”

In 13 games this season, Odunze posted 81 receptions for 1,428 yards and 13 touchdowns for Washington. He averaged 17.6 yards per catch.

How Rome Odunze Could Fit With the Steelers

Draft experts are predicting the 2024 draft class to feature a deep group of wide receivers. In fact, Miller projected eight wide receivers to be selected during the first round in his latest NFL mock draft.

That would break the previous record of seven first-round wideouts from the 2004 draft.

Odunze, though, is considered among the best of the best. ESPN’s consensus rankings has Odunze placed as the 2024 class’ third-best receiver behind only Marvin Harrison Jr. and Malik Nabers.

The draft rankings at Bleacher Report and Pro Football Focus also have Odunze as the third-best wideout in the upcoming draft class.

On the big boards at all three media outlets, Odunze sits among the top 10 players available in the 2024 draft.

At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Odunze has tremendous size and strength. Pairing him with George Pickens, who is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, would give the Steelers two big receivers on rookie contracts.

Could Odunze Replace Veteran WR Diontae Johnson?

The question, of course, if the Steelers draft Odunze or any receiver in the first round is whether that’s an indication that the team will move on from Johnson.

As Miller mentioned, Johnson’s contract expires at the end of 2024. From 2020-22, Johnson was a highly productive player, posting at least 86 receptions and 880 yards every season. But the veteran has caused several waves of controversy this season.

Most notably, Johnson received major criticism for displaying a lack of effort on a fumble during Week 12. He was also reportedly at the center of a team locker room altercation following Week 11.

Prior to that, Johnson failed to be accountable after a loss in Week 8. Instead of lamenting his own drop on the first play from scrimmage, he blamed officials for the defeat.

With all those controversies, Miller isn’t the first mock draft expert to suggest the Steelers could use the draft to replace Johnson.

“The way things are going with Diontae Johnson, his time in Pittsburgh might be limited,” The Athletic’s Dan Brugler wrote on November 29. “The Steelers have as good a track record drafting receivers outside the first round as anyone, but it would be tough to pass on Thomas, who has outstanding size (6-4, 205), speed and tracking skills.”

Johnson may need to help lead the Steelers out of their recent slump and post big numbers with backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky down the stretch to earn another contract in Pittsburgh.

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