The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.
This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others—some already decided, some not.
Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor was re-signed, but Trai Turner was not. James Daniels and Mason Cole were added in free agency.
These are the sorts of topics among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: What does the Steelers’ draft approach at wide receiver say about their plans to extend or re-sign Diontae Johnson?
A.J. Brown just got $25 million a year. Sometime soon, perhaps this offseason, D.K. Metcalf is going to get a similar rate. One can easily expect that Diontae Johnson and his agent will be looking for a similar deal in that ballpark, as well.
Johnson has been quite a nice player over his first three seasons, and still has some untapped potential in there that can be unlocked with better play at quarterback and a better offense in general. But do the Steelers really plan to pay him upwards of $20 million or more?
What does their draft say about that? After addressing their biggest need at quarterback in the first round, they used two of their next three picks at wide receiver, drafting George Pickens in the second round and Calvin Austin III in the fourth, both players who could have potentially been drafted a round earlier.
At the very least, it’s fair to wonder that the front office will now be content to see how this season plays out before making any decisions on Johnson’s potential future with the team. What if it’s Claypool who shines this year, or Pickens and Austin establish themselves as contributors right away? What if Johnson’s drop rate starts approaching where it was in 2020 again?