“Diante can go suck one.”
That was a text I received from my cousin on Thursday afternoon. I immediately knew it was about Diontae Johnson and his “hold in” during the first week of Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. But I thought there must have been more developments in the Johnson saga that I was not aware of. After all, my cousin is an engineer and an incredibly smart guy, so something significant must have forced the kind of outrage that would lead to him mangling Johnson’s first name so badly.
But my cousin, who isn’t on social media (I told you he was smart), was showing his delayed frustration with the whole Johnson situation.
I would like to thank Johnson for forcing my cousin to send me such an inflammatory text. I would also like to thank the fourth-year man out of Toledo, who is in the final year of his rookie contract and is in search of a more market-acceptable deal, for providing us with such a debatable topic over the first few days of Steelers training camp, where the players have yet to don the pads and won’t even start hitting for real until Monday.
Believe it or not, there really are no gray areas when it comes to Johnson and his decision to hold in at training camp (so far). We’d like to think there are, but Johnson is a member of the NFLPA, which is a union. When it comes to unions, it’s all black and white, baby. I learned that from my boss at the University of Pittsburgh in the late-’90s. You can’t just allow an employee to knock off an hour early for a dentist appointment if he or she is part of a union. Why? What if the next person wants to leave early to go pick up their kid?
“Sorry, we need you.”
“But you allowed Todd to leave early on Wednesday to go to the dentist. Are you saying his teeth are more important than my child?”
Like it or not, the Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin set a precedent by allowing the likes of Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt to hold in during recent training camps.
Yes, those guys were in the middle of negotiating new deals, while we have no idea if Johnson is even anywhere near the top of his employer’s list of priorities.
It is also true that both Heyward and Watt have been more integral to the team’s success in recent years than has Johnson.
Just try telling Johnson that. Just try convincing him that he should put his body at risk when his teammates did not while in similar contract situations in past years.
It’s going to be hard for Tomlin and the Steelers to ever nip this whole “holding in” deal in the bud in the coming years. How do you convince that wild horse to get back in the barn after it’s been prancing around for a few summers?
It’s one thing to discipline a player for off-the-field issues or for holding out of training camp while still under contract. But how do you punish a player for handling a situation the same way his teammates—leaders on the team—did in the past?
Johnson is at work, and he’s going through individual drills. Is that really a breach of contract? If it is, why wasn’t it for the other guys? Because they’re more special? Again, try convincing Johnson of that. Furthermore, try convincing his union of that.
I’m glad it’s happening, though. Why? It’s comical, the pictures of Johnson working out on his own, while his mates work through team drills.
It’s like a softer, gentler controversy that is fun for the whole family.
Thanks, again, Diontae Johnson.