The Pittsburgh Steelers begin their offseason workouts today. Although the team will not be doing drills on the field or things of that nature to start, it is the first opportunity for players to get together in an organized way at the facility as members of the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers. While it is not required for players to attend, they are paid a small stipend for their participation, and the time together with teammates is not usually a negative.
For a quick reminder of what all the Steelers can do during their offseason workouts, here’s an explanation of the three phases from Steelers.com:
Breakdown of Phases of Offseason Program:
Phase One (April 18-29): During this two-week voluntary phase activities are limited to strength and conditioning, meetings, and physical rehabilitation only.
Phase Two (May 2-20): In this voluntary phase on-field workouts may include drills with strict guidelines and no contact. Coaches are permitted to be on the field during this time. All drills must be conducted at an acceptable walkthrough pace that is for instructional purposes.
Phase Three (May 23-June 17): Teams may conduct a total of 10 voluntary Organized Team Activities, OTAs, during this phase. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted. The team’s mandatory minicamp takes place during this time.
Although Phase 1 might see varying player participation, by the time the Steelers get to Phase 3 is really telling as to what is going on with players and their intentions moving forward. There are two players in particular with the Steelers whose contract situation may determine their participation. The first player is safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is playing on his fifth year option for $10.612 million. Much like T.J. Watt last offseason, both sides are looking for a long-term deal before the start of the regular season. Whether or not Fitzpatrick will treat this offseason much like Watt did last year and not participate throughout training camp or the preseason remains to be seen.
The other player in search of a new contract is Steelers Pro Bowl receiver Diontae Johnson. Going into the final year of his rookie deal, Johnson is likely looking to cash in on the huge wide receiver market that was set up earlier this offseason. But if the Steelers choose to just let him play out his final year, how will it ultimately affect Johnson’s offseason?
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, there are a number of wide receivers from the 2019 draft class who are also looking for new contracts. Any wide receiver taken in the first round of the draft, such as the Baltimore Raven’s Marquise Brown, still has their fifth-year option as a possibility and fall into a different category. But picks from the second round or later, such as Deebo Samuel of the San Francisco 49ers, A.J. Brown of the Tennessee Titans, and Terry McLaurin of the Washington Commanders, are reportedly not participating in their team’s workouts as they look for a new deal.
Second-round picks that include WRs Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown and Terry McLaurin are not expected to participate in their teams’ on-field off-season programs because they want new contracts at a time this off-season when WR deals have exploded, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 18, 2022
One player who is apparently not skipping their offseason workouts is Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf. But Metcalf is also a player who has been the source of a number of trade rumors as Seattle is re-working their offense after trading Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos.
So will Diontae Johnson join the players listed by Schefter, or will he be participating in the Steelers workouts? If Johnson were to skip Phase 1, there likely would not be much impact on things other than missing team meetings. But as the offseason rolls on, will Johnson participate?
At this time, there are no confirmed reports of Johnson‘s intentions for the 2022 season and his contract status with the Steelers. With a number of players who worked out over a week ago with new Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky in Florida, Diontae Johnson was not one of the players reported to be participating. Instead, it was reported he was working out with other players from around the NFL during the same time period.
With the Steelers offseason workouts now underway, and with reports of other wide receivers in similar situations as Diontae Johnson not reporting, this will be something worth noting moving forward. With the Steelers having a new quarterback for 2022, regardless of who it may be, it may also be a very pivotal offseason for Johnson, especially if he does not receive a contract extension from the Steelers and he’s looking to maximize his value as much as possible for 2023.