Arthur Moats Speculates That Diontae Johnson Could Be Trade Bait For Steelers As Hold-In Continues

As the “hold-in” for Pittsburgh Steelers’ star wide receiver Diontae Johnson drags on three days into training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, former Steelers linebacker turned media member Arthur Moats raised some eyebrows during an appearance on 93.7 The Fan Friday afternoon.

Moats, who spent four seasons with the Steelers from 2014-17, believes that Johnson could be trade bait now that new General Manager Omar Khan and Assistant GM Andy Weidl are in charge. Moats raised some eyebrows with the speculation Friday afternoon on the PM Show with Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller, throwing the hosts and the rest of Steelers Nation for a loop.

As Johnson continues to take part in individual wide receiver drills before then sitting out of team drills on Chuck Noll Field at Saint Vincent College, questions continue to be raised about when or if the Steelers will get a deal done with their star receiver, especially after Seattle’s DK Metcalf became the latest receiver Thursday to get paid this offseason.

Moats took it a step further on Friday with Fillipponi and Mueller, speculating that the Steelers could be holding him out of drills because they’re trying to trade him as he enters a contract year, especially after seeing the way the receiver market has exploded this summer.

“We don’t know the full backstory of everything that’s going on in these negotiations,” Moats said to Fillipponi and Mueller, according to audio via 93.7 The Fan. “But what we do know is that, hey, when you’re talking about wanting to potentially extend a guy or does it make sense to move a guy, you take all of that into context.

“If I’m trying to move you via trade, your trade value goes down if you get hurt. So if there’s a potential of me moving you in any capacity, I’m going to tell you to do what? Stay off to the sidelines. You’re gonna work, but you’re not working like crazy because I can’t afford you to mess up a potential trade,” Moats added, according to audio via 93.7 The Fan. “I’m not saying that that’s the case, but that is still an option that is on the table, legitimately, when you’re talking about the way the wide receiver group is, the guys drafted this year, and the overall market for the wide receiver position as well.”

Well, that’s certainly quite a bit of speculation from Moats overall. There’s been no indication that the Steelers are actively trying to shop Diontae Johnson, even with them drafting the likes of George Pickens and Calvin Austin III in the 2022 NFL Draft. Those moves came after the Steelers lost three receivers in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ray-Ray McCloud and James Washington in free agency and reflected a need to replace depth and rebuild the room being Johnson and Chase Claypool, rather than helping the Steelers gear up for a potential trade of Johnson ahead of the 2022 season in which the Steelers have all intentions of competing.

Johnson sitting out during team drills has to do with his contract demands from the Steelers and a lack of movement on that front overall, rather than the Steelers telling him to sit out due to a potential trade. Sure, that’s not entirely known overall, but based on what Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin said following Day 1 of training camp, Johnson sitting out of team drills was Johnson’s decision, and Johnson’s decision alone, even with Johnson stating prior to practice Wednesday that he wants to be out there as a full participant.

If the Steelers were to hypothetically consider moving Johnson in a trade, they’d have to give teams permission to contact him to work out an extension, as no team would likely want to trade a valuable player or draft pick to the Steelers for a one-year rental overall. Safe to say, the Steelers aren’t going to grant that permission hypothetically, so this all winds up being a bunch about nothing.

Could the Steelers trade Johnson ahead of the 2022 season? It’s not impossible, but it’s very, very, very unlikely, considering how big of a piece he is to the new-look offense as a whole. Realistically, I’d say he has a better chance of getting a new contract from the Steelers than he does being traded in training camp.

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