There are a lot of things that the Pittsburgh Steelers and their players don’t need. Among the many things that are not needed right now is for people to make a big deal about Diontae Johnson participating in a workout with Antonio Brown. Even less needed is having notable sports reporters covering this as though it was something significant.
While it’s true that Brown and Johnson were never teammates—in fact, the Steelers used the third-round pick that they got back in exchange for Brown to draft Johnson—that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have had some sort of prior contact, or developed one later on.
Last year, other players like Jaylen Samuels were seen working out with Brown after he parted from the Steelers. That didn’t matter. This won’t matter either. Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that Johnson “had to know that Brown is persona non grata with the Steelers” and that he “should have known better than to get involved with Brown”.
Except this is not even true. The Steelers have made it very clear this offseason that while they have no interest in doing further business with Brown, the doors remain very much open for communication between the two parties, and they would offer any assistance that Brown might ask for.
As for the players in the locker room, the prevailing opinion that has been expressed in interviews and social media, especially after the initial frustration had settled, is that he is still their brother and they still care about him. He may have burned bridges with guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster, but those are taken on an individual basis.
I understand that there isn’t a whole lot to write about now—although there is a lot more right now than there was a week ago—but I cannot imagine a good reason other than the logistics of bringing in traffic to dedicate space to complaining about Diontae Johnson working out with Antonio Brown.
It’s not as though Brown is indoctrinating Johnson and convincing him that the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger are evil. At least, there is zero indication that this would even be effective if he tried. Johnson has already said that he can’t wait to work with Roethlisberger again, even though they only had a game and a half together.
Brown has a long history of working out with other players, such as Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, Odell Beckham, and other less notable and inflammatory personalities. Right now, he doesn’t have anything else to do, and neither do the players. Johnson is a second-year guy who had a much bigger role as a rookie than he expected.
He’s getting work in with one of the best in the game, even if he isn’t currently in the game. Does it matter that he is a former Steeler who burned some bridges on his way out—many of which he has clearly come to regret in hindsight?
I certainly don’t think so.