Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said he didn’t anticipate that WR Diontae Johnson would be a “hold in” at training camp.
Tomlin was wrong.
Johnson, who is entering the last season of his contract, declined to participate in team drills Wednesday. Johnson is repeating what T.J. Watt did last year: He showed up but is severely limiting his work.
That got Watt a lucrative new contract. Why wouldn’t Johnson think he can do the same thing and get the same result?
Johnson isn’t Watt. But Johnson doesn’t know that. Nobody will tell him.
Ben Roethlisberger recently said that the Steelers have become me-first, not team-first.
Cam Heyward repudiated what Roethlisberger said.
But it took all of one team session at camp for Roethlisberger to be proven correct.
What do the Steelers do now? How far will Johnson go with his “hold in”?
The Steelers need Johnson this season, but perhaps not beyond.
The Steelers took WR George Pickens in the second round of this year’s draft. Receivers are disposable. Easily replaced.
Johnson is good, and worthy of a big payday via the standard set by peers with similar stats.
But he’s hardly Antonio Brown.
Brown and Hines Ward are the last two receivers to get a second contract with the Steelers. Johnson isn’t Ward, either.
But here’s betting the Steelers buckle. That Johnson gets a new deal. Players walk all over the Steelers.
The “hold in” is officially a thing with the Steelers.
The owner likes to do it the way daddy did it.
But this isn’t the way daddy did it.
At the very least, Tomlin should tell Johnson to get off the field ‘til this he's willing to fully participate. Tomlin should have done the same with Watt. There’s no point to letting the situation play out publicly.
Watt should have been extended long before last year's camp started. The Steelers always intended to ink him long-term. That eliminates the precedent.
Heyward is the Steelers' primary leader. But he won't tell Johnson to get on the field. Heyward will commiserate with Johnson about how to get paid. That's leadership in today's NFL.