In the early years of free agency, the Steelers seemingly had a great outside linebacker every year. In many of those years, the great outside linebacker had to go elsewhere to get paid.
And the Steelers just kept on cranking out great outside linebackers.
In recent years, the Steelers have mastered the art of drafting and developing receivers. This year, James Washington left via free agency. Next year, Diontae Johnson is likely to be following Washington.
Mark Kaboly of TheAthletic.com suggests in a mailbag column that the Steelers won’t pay Johnson $20 million per year. This means that they won’t re-sign him. He won’t take $20 million per year, not as the market is moving toward $30 million.
Why should he? The market is what it is. The cap is what it is, and it will keep going up. He needs to get paid while he can, because he has only so many years to get paid.
The Steelers don’t care, because they know they can replace Johnson via the draft. They drafted two more receivers this year, possibly planning for Johnson to leave. And for Chase Claypool, who considers himself to be one of the top three receivers in the league, to be next.
A decade ago, the Steelers made an offer to receiver Mike Wallace. When he didn’t take it, they basically offered the same deal to receiver Antonio Brown. Brown accepted. If the Steelers won’t go north of $20 million per year, neither Johnson nor Claypool will accept — and both will be gone.
Just like the revolving door the Steelers once had at outside linebacker, they’ll be drafting and developing receivers who become good enough to get paid big money elsewhere. And then the Steelers will do it al over again.