The Steelers Should Work With Diontae Johnson on a Restructured Contract

 

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There is such a stark difference in the way in which people view the player/team/owner relationship when it comes to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  In every situation brought up about the Pirates in the last 20 years, it’s a cheap owner trying to cheat his players, and they should pay them whatever they ask for.  In every situation that arises with the Steelers in the last 20 years, it’s that the player should be honored just to wear the patch, and the players are bringing too much drama to the locker room.  Yes, even T.J. Watt had this narrative surrounding him by some more vocal fans on social media.

Of course, saying this occurs across the board for every single situation in the last 20 years is an embellishment, but the narrative surrounding each team is pretty clear.  Most view the team as wrong in the case of the Pirates and most view the player as wrong in the case of the Steelers.  Bryan Reynolds versus Diontae Johnson is a perfect example of that.

I love Bryan Reynolds as much as anyone else.  He has been on my fantasy baseball team three seasons in a row and anyone who plays fantasy sports knows the type of weird bond that creates.  However, arguably Diontae Johnson is a better wide receiver, relative to his peers, than Reynolds is an outfielder. 

In an offense that couldn’t give it’s ancient quarterback more than three seconds to throw, Johnson was 5th in receptions, 10th in receiving yards, and 19th in touchdown receptions with eight on the season.  He is easily a top-tier wide receiver, and would be a No. 1 option on most NFL rosters.  Ben Roethlisberger is undoubtedly a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but that is not who he was last season. Just imagine what Johnson could do on a team with the type of offensive line and quarterback you saw in the rest of the AFC last season.

However, instead of recognizing the ability that Johnson brings to this Steelers offense, he is now “creating drama in the locker room” and we should just “let him walk if he wants that money”. 

Why?

Why the stark difference between the fan bases that seemingly would be pulling from the same demographic of people?  Success helps of course.  It’s easy to blame the organization when the Pirates have had such little success in the last 25 years.  The Steelers have won two Super Bowls in that span, however, they also haven’t won a playoff game since 2016, and barely snuck into this postseason. 

We’re seeing how much these top-tier wide receivers are garnering in contracts now, but we’re also seeing just how impactful a single wide receiver can be on an NFL team.  Joe Burrow was going to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to a winning season regardless, but the Bengals are not a Super Bowl team without Ja’Marr Chase.

The same can be said for Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams.  Are they single-handedly leading their teams to the playoffs?  No.  But the Los Angeles Rams were able to lose Robert Woods to injury and still ride Cooper Kupp to the Super Bowl.  Johnson’s stats show he is among these elite receivers like Chase, Kupp, and Adams, and they had Burrow, Matt Stafford, and Aaron Rodgers throwing to them on high efficiency offenses.

I know the Steelers have been known to draft and develop wide receivers at a great rate of success, but Johnson has developed into something really special.  Especially with how little he is now dropping the ball compared to his earlier seasons   

I’d like to see the Steelers work with him and get this figured out before the season starts.  We as a fan base also have to start being less extreme when it comes to the Pirates always being wrong and the Steelers always being right.  There’s a middle ground there.

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