Diontae Johnson Trade

Analyzing The Diontae Johnson Trade: Pittsburgh Steelers Edition

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a surprising trade a few weeks ago sending star wide receiver Diontae Johnson along with a seventh-round pick to the Carolina Panthers for cornerback Donte Jackson and a sixth-round pick. While the Steelers got a cornerback who could start next to Joey Porter Jr., they lost one of their starting wide receivers in the process.

This move has been very controversial among Steelers fans and the general public with many feeling like the Panthers fleeced the Steelers in the trade. When analyzing this trade for the Steelers, what needs to be evaluated are the player they traded, what they got for him, and how the team will be affected by the trade.

Analyzing The Diontae Johnson Trade: Pittsburgh Steelers Edition

1. Was Diontae Johnson Expendable?

When breaking down this trade, the first part to look at is the player who was traded. Were they bad or good? What was their worth and overall value to the team? Those questions have to be answered first. The Steelers also sent a seventh-round pick in this trade but that pick is usually worthless so only the loss of Johnson will be evaluated.

Johnson, was sometimes inconsistent, especially in his earlier seasons when he had trouble with drops. As more seasons went by his drops were less of a problem and he became even better as a receiver. Johnson may not be as physical or as explosive as Steelers receiver George Pickens, but he is a better route runner and separator than Pickens. Not everything about being a receiver is being the fastest or strongest guy.

While that helps, an important factor in being a great receiver is being able to get open in multiple ways. Johnson could do this with his precise routes and good releases off the line of scrimmage. He hasn’t been able to create all the electric plays that someone like Pickens can but his skillset is valuable and needed. The duo of Pickens and Johnson would work with Pickens being the contested catch and big-play threat, and Johnson being Mr. Reliable, someone you can count on getting open and making solid plays each game.

Without him, it hurts the Steelers’ passing game and puts even more pressure on Pickens. As for whether any of the other receivers not named Pickens on the roster can replace Johnson, the answer is no. None of them have the skill set nor are as talented as Johnson is.

2. Was The Compensation Good Enough?

The second thing to evaluate is what the Steelers got for Johnson. There are a few things they could get back that would make the trade good, such as a replacement for him or a player that was similar, or even better than him, at another position. The Steelers got neither as Jackson and a sixth-round pick are not enough for a receiver of Johnson’s caliber. Statistically, Johnson’s last two seasons were not spectacular but he was being held back by quarterback play and overall play design.

In a good offense, he easily catches more touchdowns and puts up more yards than he did in the last two years.  Due to his statistics, his trade value may have been less than it should be, but if that was the case the Steelers should have kept him. What they got in return is not up to par with who Johnson is. Jackson, while a starting corner, is prone to giving up explosive plays and is rather inconsistent in coverage.

Despite these issues, Jackson will be an upgrade over what the Steelers had last year at the number two cornerback position just based on his speed alone but that isn’t saying much. So the issue of finding a great number two corner wasn’t fixed. As for the sixth-round pick, occasionally teams can find a diamond in the rough in the draft. A player who fell in the draft or was not considered a great player is sometimes taken in the later rounds of the draft and turns out to be exceptional. Who knows maybe the Steelers will find a great player in the sixth this year but the chances that they do are slim.

3. How Does This Trade Effect The Roster And Future Plans Of The Team?

Finally, the last part of the trade to judge is how the loss of Johnson will affect the team going forward. The Steelers’ needs before the Johnson trade were: center, slot receiver, outside and slot cornerback, offensive tackle, and defensive line depth. Outside wide receiver was added to that list after the trade for Donte Jackson. Trying to address all those positions will be hard, now that options are slim in free agency.

The Steelers could always make another trade but if they don’t they will mostly be relying on the draft to fix most of these. Plenty of talent can be found in the draft, especially at some of the positions such as cornerback and wide receiver but they would be asking a lot of these rookies.

The Steelers are trying to improve on their playoff performances as of late so they would need these rookies to come and be good from the start. For some of these positions, the rookies would not have the luxury of being able to sit and learn for a while until they are ready to play. The Steelers are so bare at some of these spots such as center, that they would have no choice but to play a rookie there if they drafted one. So this trade has caused a variety of potential issues for the Steelers and they will have to find a way to fill another hole on their roster.

Overall Review:

This trade has too many negatives to be considered good. It has done some massive damage to their wide receiver group and it has put pressure on them to fix this position pretty early in the draft. The other position they have attempted to address with this trade – cornerback – was barely fixed as well, as Jackson can’t be relied on to be a great cornerback. The Steelers should have just kept Johnson until his contract ended next season instead of making this trade.

Main Image: Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK

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