The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted before they even reached the postseason, which unfortunately marks the sixth consecutive season in which they failed to win a postseason game—tying their longest drought of the Super Bowl era. Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
The Steelers did arguably perform at or above expectations this year by going 9-8 and nearly making the postseason at all, a reflection of just how much talent they lost during the offseason, from Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Haden to most of their wide receiver room, not to mention Stephon Tuitt’s decision to retire.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2022 season.
Player: Diontae Johnson
Experience: 4 Years
Coming off of a Pro Bowl season, Diontae Johnson earned himself a fair mid-market extension that was a reasonable compromise between the top salaries at the position and the length of the term. It clocked in at a two-year extension averaging $18.355 million in new money, which included a $17.5 million signing bonus.
Then he caught zero touchdown passes in 17 games played over the course of the year, setting a new NFL record for the most receptions in a single season without scoring a touchdown of any kind. He did catch two passes for a pair of two-point conversions.
Johnson’s 2022 season was arguably a tale of near misses. He had several shots at scoring touchdowns, all falling short. He would be tackled just shy of the goal line or the fade pass wouldn’t be where he needed to be. He’d be unable to complete a difficult play and drag his back foot inbounds, or he might even drop the ball entirely.
While his flaws have regularly been blown out of proportion, there’s no question that Johnson has more than tried fans’ patience. Once a primary strength of his game, his ability to produce yards after the catch has been stymied for numerous reasons, one of them a tendency to run backward in the hopes of giving himself room to run—trying to do too much.
That was the same story with multiple plays that ended up being ruled incomplete passes when they could have easily been seen as fumbles, had he only been determined to have completed the catch process. Pressing, trying to do too much.
Johnson remains a very talented player and one of the game’s elite route runners, but that his 2022 season was disappointing is an understatement. The quarterback shuffle and his lack of time working with Kenny Pickett was an issue, but there will be no excuses in 2023.
There also won’t be any trades, by the way.