LATROBE, Pa. — It may not have turned out exactly like that, but it certainly wasn’t far from it: Omar Khan lays a contract offer on a table at Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson and says, “ That’s what we’re going to pay you.”
Even though Khan has spent years doing the same for the Steelers, this is the first year he’s had the GM title attached to his name. Khan, who replaced Kevin Colbert in late May as the team’s general manager, quickly signed Minkah Fitzpatrick to a recording contract and on Monday signed Chris Boswell to another recording contract.
Sign of a new regime? Not really.
Johnson had stayed away from practice for most of the week with the same offer on the table as before. Khan had a market price in mind, and it had to be Johnson’s decision whether to take it or not.
It’s not like Johnson gave in, as he signed a two-year, $37 million extension with $27 million guaranteed and $17.5 million up for grabs. But the original contract was presented to him weeks ago.
“The offer they made to me, I honored it,” Johnson said. “I could have had a little more, but I’m fine, I’m happy and I’m ready to go.”
Khan showed he wasn’t going to budge on market value. Arguably, this was his first real deal since being named GM. The other two were about to happen. Here, Khan had stuck to his guns and shown he wouldn’t be pushed around as GM. The director of football administration, Cole Marcoux, also participated, but this agreement sets a good precedent for the organization.
Khan can do this job.
Tomlin happy to sign DJ. pic.twitter.com/T9Z4AfGgwm
—Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) August 4, 2022
“I don’t talk a lot about negotiations and things of that nature,” Mike Tomlin said. “I’ll leave that to O, I know he’s spoken to you about it. Just know that from a coaching perspective, I’m glad it’s behind us and we can focus on the game. collective and individual development.
Historically, the Steelers rarely pay receivers on multi-year contracts after their first contract. Hines Ward and Antonio Brown were the exceptions, but they were also generational players. It’s unclear if Johnson is that, or if the Steelers see him that way.
One thing is certain: Receivers in the 2019 draft class have taken in big this offseason, including $24 million a year recently at DK Metcalf and Deebo Samuel. AJ Brown and Terry McLaurin also signed deals in that lineup, while Hunter Renfrow — a 2019 Raiders fifth-round pick — earned $16 million per season over two years.
Johnson placed himself just ahead of Renfrow, and he will be able to negotiate a new deal in 24 months when the cap is expected to rise significantly.
“You see the numbers, but I wasn’t looking at everybody’s pockets,” Johnson said as he watched other receivers get paid. “They deserve it at the end of the day. I can’t control what they do, so I just worry about what I’m doing. We were able to come up with something and happy to come to the table, do something, and I was happy that we got there.
“I feel like I made the right deal. I don’t care what other people do. The market is up there, but God got something for me, and it was the right one. business for me.
As recently as two days ago, reports said Johnson’s signing looked bleak. The only thing that changed from then until Thursday was that Johnson felt he needed to get back on the court, and $37 million isn’t bad.
“I thought like that many times (like it wasn’t going to happen), but no, I prayed about it last night,” Johnson said. “I felt it was the right decision. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I was thinking about that too, but at the end of the day, I love being a Steeler. like it here a lot; I want to end my career here.
“Just being surrounded by my teammates and being surrounded by the atmosphere and the energy that they show every day; you want to be with a group of guys like that every day. I felt like I made the right choice. I want to continue to be here for a long time.
Diontae Johnson on his new contract. pic.twitter.com/broUokfcZr
—Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) August 4, 2022
Steelers Camp Day 10 (Training 8) Observations:
1. Neither Tomlin nor Johnson would admit it, but it’s too much of a coincidence what happened on Johnson’s first one-on-one camp rep. It had to be planned. Johnson passed Ahkello Witherspoon and caught a nice pass wide on a perfect throw from Mitch Trubisky.
Although Johnson hasn’t fully participated in any practice this year, he has continued to play on the court. After a week of watching non-starting receivers run routes and fetch the ball, Johnson’s presence showed a different level of skill compared to the others who were there.
Now he got tired on that 90 degree day at Saint Vincent College. He asked a trainer for an ice cloth after a period so he could put it on his head and cool off. But in Johnson’s defense, it was a common sight that day.
2. The quarterback hierarchy remained the same, with Trubisky getting the first-team reps, followed by Mason Rudolph and then Kenny Pickett. But all three could very well have had their best days on Thursday. Rudolph continued to be the most accurate of them all, but Pickett seems to have turned the corner a bit with his decision making, his reads and his speed on his ball. He still showed that he could complete passes while running with the best of them.
3. If you had to pick the worst of them all, it had to be Trubisky, and I’m basing it mostly on a critical roll. A representative of Seven Shots, which as we all know simulates a play on the goal line, was intended for Anthony McFarland Jr. but should have been intercepted by Cameron Sutton. McFarland didn’t run the best of routes and may have let Trubisky dry out, but still, those are the types of throws that make you lose quarterback competitions.
The Steelers are looking for the quarterback with the highest floor to be their starter, which means being a very consistent quarterback who makes all the right decisions. Forcing a throw out inside the 5-yard line is not the right call. During 7-on-7 later, Trubisky missed all four of his attempts, which are generally considered easy shots.
4. The defense extended their seven-game winning streak to six straight with a 4-3 victory:
- Trubisky read the outside leverage on George Pickens in the slot machine and cast a laser between his numbers for conversion. It didn’t hurt that the cornerback slipped on the wet grass during the game. (1-0, attack)
- Benny Snell Jr. was stuffed with an inside running game. (1-1)
- Trubisky was pressured from outside, got up and threw him out of the back of the end zone. (2-1, defense).
- Trubisky quickly threw to McFarland and was nearly taken down by Sutton. (3-1, defense)
- Rudolph’s fade to Miles Boykin in the near corner was defended by James Pierre. (4-1, defense)
- Rudolph hooked up with Jace Sternberger for the easy conversion. (4-2, defense)
- Pickett missed a corner pass that was carried by Cody White. (Defense wins, 4-3)
— smitty in the streets (@smittywerbin1) August 4, 2022
5. It’s hard to assess the offensive line as a whole in training camp, but let’s just say this: the first group was able to move some bodies, both in team periods and in individual drills. Mason Cole looked the best of them all, but in the live period, Kevin Dotson showed why the Steelers were so high on him as a rookie. Dan Moore was also good at the drill.
Meanwhile, Kendrick Green, who is competing with Dotson to start at left guard, was beaten by Khalil Davis in back-to-back reps. At this point, Dotson seems to be improving and Green is stagnating a bit.
“I could pass judgements, but we’ll be in a stadium in a week or so and we’ll have more information in terms of an assessment, and I’m the type to always be patient with that,” Tomlin said. .
6. With Jaylen Warren getting a lot of notice this week, McFarland has slipped under the radar. He held his third consecutive good practice on Thursday. This was especially noticeable when he was running between the tackles, although he took a throwing sweep late in practice, made a move on safety Donovan Stiner and ran over 60 yards for the score and also made a twist around Myles Jack out of the backfield. McFarland was good that day from guard to guard. It’s the same thing he showed last year during camp that didn’t translate into the season.
seven. With Pat Freiermuth still out and Connor Heyward struggling, the Steelers had a productive day under tight end Jace Sternberger. The Packers’ 2019 third-round pick, Sternberger signed in the offseason to provide depth. He was overwhelmed at times in the first week but showed some ball skills on Thursday. Blocking isn’t his strength and he’ll need more than one practice, but it’s worth mentioning that he continued to show up in the passing game on Thursday.
8. The Steelers grounded the ball twice on Thursday. Warren had it hit by Justin Layne between the tackles, prompting the players to make sure Tomlin saw it. Tomlin shot back, “You didn’t get it back, so it doesn’t count.” Later in practice, Snell appeared to have fumbled on the sidelines, but there was no definite decision.
9. With officials on campus for day two, many pass interference flags were thrown. I don’t know if that means the secondary is too practical or the referees are in pre-season form, but there were several PI calls in two practices, on both sides of the ball.
“We have an OPI discussion, offensive pass interference and prolonged elbow contact above the waist is a trigger for officials in terms of officiating that component of a play. And so they hear small minutiae like this that help them play the game and play it at a professional level,” Tomlin said.
ten. Minkah Fitzpatrick has been taken off the non-football injury list and has taken part in training for the first time. … Sutton left with a lower body injury. … Practice was cut short by 11 games due to a severe thunderstorm approaching campus. … With TJ Watt enjoying another day off, Tuzar Skipper played a part in the first team. … Again, the guys that came out were Anthony Miller and Delontae Scott, but you also have to start throwing the Davis brothers into the mix, defensive tackles Carlos and Khalil. … The Steelers have yet to practice a live field goal this camp.
(Photo by Omar Khan and Art Rooney II: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)