Diontae Johnson

WR Diontae Johnson Interested In Panthers Extension

The Steelers and Panthers agreed to swap contract-year players. The higher-profile piece included in the March trade went to Carolina, which acquired Diontae Johnson. Donte Jackson is now in Pittsburgh, joining Johnson as a walk-year player on a new team.

Carolina has now paired Johnson’s Pittsburgh-constructed contract with Bryce Young‘s rookie deal. Johnson and Adam Thielen join rookie-contract wideouts Jonathan Mingo and Xavier Legette. After inking a two-year, $36.75MM deal before the 2022 season, Johnson may not need to see how this season goes before determining Charlotte could work for him long term.

[RELATED: Diontae Johnson Sought Trade From Steelers]

Just gotta stay relaxed, just keep being humble, make my plays,” Johnson said, via Panthers Wire’s Anthony Rizzuti. “Help the team win the best way I can and my game will speak for itself. And if they feel like they want to extend me, then I’m all for it.”

Johnson’s contract timeline has proven interesting. He initially strolled into a walk year as the Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams contracts began a sea change in the receiver market. The Jaguars’ four-year, $72MM Christian Kirk proposal changed the market’s second tier as well, and a slew of Day 2 draftees in 2019 — Johnson, A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel, D.K. Metcalf — landed extensions. Johnson’s checked in between Kirk’s pact and the Brown-Metcalf-Samuel-McLaurin tier, averaging $18.35MM per year. He is now going into a contract year as the WR market is changing again.

Brown, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Justin Jefferson have surpassed Hill’s $30MM-per-year accord, and Hill joins CeeDee Lamb and Brandon Aiyuk in angling for a top-market contract. Courtland Sutton resides near the second tier; the Broncos’ top wideout is pushing for an adjustment as well. Johnson, who will turn 28 next month, can certainly aim for a contract north of $20MM per year. He might need to deliver a bounce-back season in Carolina to up his market.

Johnson has been tied to a slew of QBs during his career. Although Ben Roethlisberger will be a Hall of Famer, he was not at his best during Johnson’s Pittsburgh stay. Big Ben’s 2019 elbow injury ushered in a season of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, and Roethlisberger’s retirement brought in Kenny Pickett. The latter failed to justify the Steelers’ No. 20 overall investment, leading to a trade. Johnson has made do, with his crafty route running (with a drop penchant admittedly mixed in) aiding this lot of QBs. Sandwiching an 1,161-yard 2021 showing in Roethlisberger’s finale, Johnson totaled 923 yards (2020) and 881 (2022). The former third-round pick bettered his 2022 per-game average, notching 55.2 per contest — and catching five TD passes after famously being kept out of the end zone in 2022 — after returning from a hamstring injury last season.

The Panthers added Johnson and Legette to help round out Young’s aerial cast, which was thin beyond Thielen last season. Thielen’s three-year, $25MM contract features a guaranteed 2024 salary. The soon-to-be 34-year-old receiver’s 2025 money is nonguaranteed, giving the Panthers options. Another Johnson deal would align with Young’s rookie deal on a roster largely devoid of big-ticket contracts.

Carolina hired Dan Morgan as its GM this offseason. While Morgan did not have final say on the D.J. Moore and Robbie Chosen extensions earlier this decade, he was on staff when the Panthers authorized them. It will certainly be interesting to see if the Panthers move to extend Johnson before or during his contract campaign.

Diontae Johnson Sought Trade From Steelers

The Steelers have made a habit of moving on from starting wide receivers following their rookie contracts, regularly finding replacements in the draft. This assembly line, however, did feature an exception for Diontae Johnson, who signed an extension in 2022. But the Steelers wrapped Johnson’s tenure after five seasons by trading him to the Panthers.

Swapping out Johnson, 27, for Carolina cornerback Donte Jackson, Pittsburgh bailed on a player who led the team in receiving three times (2020-22) and one who displayed strong route-running chops. While some turbulence came along with the former third-round pick, the team has a need at receiver entering April.

[RELATED: Steelers Sign WR Quez Watkins]

Rumblings about a Johnson trade emerged around the Combine, and The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly indicates the talented pass catcher requested a trade (subscription required). Going into the final season on the two-year, $36.71MM extension he signed in summer 2022, Johnson will now count $10MM on Carolina’s cap and give Bryce Young a second veteran receiver to target alongside Adam Thielen.

It is unclear why Johnson wanted out, though the Steelers’ quarterback situation may well have played a role. Chosen in Round 3 out of Toledo, Johnson soon saw the Steelers’ QB fortunes change when Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury in September 2019. He showed potential with Mason Rudolph as a rookie, but Roethlisberger was a diminished version of himself upon returning in 2020. More limitations emerged in 2021, and the future Hall of Famer called it quits at season’s end. Drop issues notwithstanding, Johnson became Big Ben’s most trusted target following the elbow injury; he posted 144- and 167-target seasons in 2020 and ’21, posting a career-high 1,161 yards in Roethlisberger’s final season.

Kenny Pickett did not provide an upgrade. Johnson famously did not score a touchdown in 2022, going nearly two years between regular-season TDs. He added five TDs last year and averaged more yards per game (55.2) compared to 2022 but brought baggage stemming from comments and a dispute with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The five-year veteran also chirped at coaches during a rocky 2023 slate. Johnson was also criticized for showing little effort to recover a Jaylen Warren fumble during a game against the Bengals last season. A Johnson-Mitch Trubisky shouting match also took place in 2022, and the Steelers have closed the book on their partnership with the 5-foot-10 WR as they revamped their QB room around Russell Wilson and Justin Fields.

The Steelers have nabbed numerous starting wideouts on Day 2 of the draft during the Mike TomlinKevin Colbert partnership — from Mike Wallace to Emmanuel Sanders to JuJu Smith-Schuster to Johnson to George Pickens — and it would certainly not surprise to see the team turn to the draft’s second day to address this spot once again. This is viewed as another deep receiver draft, and the Steelers have continually done well to staff this job. They need help alongside Pickens now, with Quez Watkins, Van Jefferson, Calvin Austin and gadget/returner addition Cordarrelle Patterson in the fold.

Mike Tomlin said the team had targeted Jackson, 28, in the past. The former second-round pick joins Joey Porter Jr. as the Steelers’ top corners. The team reduced its recent trade acquisition’s cap number as well. The sides agreed on a new deal that dropped Jackson’s 2024 cap number to $6MM, per OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald, who adds the seventh-year corner will receive $4.75MM guaranteed. The Steelers already picked up Jackson’s $4MM roster bonus upon acquiring him.

The Jackson trade left $9.78MM in dead money on Carolina’s payroll; the team moved on from the corner two years after re-signing him to a three-year, $35.18MM contract. Pittsburgh’s Johnson trade left $5.83MM in dead money on its cap sheet. Both players’ contracts still expire after the 2024 season, though their new teams hold exclusive negotiating rights until March 2025.

Steelers To Trade WR Diontae Johnson To Panthers For CB Donte Jackson

The Diontae Johnson trade rumors will indeed produce a deal, and for the second straight day, the Panthers are involved in a big trade. The Steelers are sending the veteran wide receiver to Carolina, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports.

One season remains on Johnson’s contract, with Schefter adding the Panthers will now pay the sixth-year receiver’s $3MM roster bonus due later this week. After five Steelers seasons, the shifty route runner will settle in as a Bryce Young weapon.

The full trade will involve cornerback Donte Jackson coming back to the Steelers, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports. Carolina will send Jackson and a sixth-round pick for Johnson and a seventh. The picks will come in 2024. The Steelers are sending No. 240 in this swap, with the Panthers moving No. 178 to Pittsburgh, per veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer. The No. 178 choice is originally a Cardinals selection.

[RELATED: Steelers To Sign QB Russell Wilson]

A report earlier this month indicated the Panthers would move on from Jackson, via trade or release; Carolina has found a trade partner. After rumblings of a Johnson deal surfaced as well, the two will end up being exchanged.

For the Panthers, this provides Young with a proven wide receiver. The Panthers were light here last season, contributing to the steep freefall. Johnson will now join Adam Thielen atop the Carolina aerial pecking order. As Thielen is going into his age-34 season, this trade will provide a player in his prime for Young to target.

Heading into his age-28 season, Johnson has not been the most consistent receiver. Drops have plagued the elusive target, whose effort level has also come into question in Pittsburgh. But Johnson will be playing for a big contract in 2024. The Steelers gave the Toledo alum a two-year, $36.7MM extension just before the 2022 season. That deal fell short of the market set by fellow 2019 Day 2 picks A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel and D.K. Metcalf, but Johnson’s production has checked in south of those standouts’. He has still shown a consistent ability to create separation, doing so almost entirely with limited QB play. Johnson’s presence will help the Panthers determine Young’s value as a pro.

Johnson totaled 1,161 yards in 2021, Ben Roethlisberger‘s final season, and exceeded 850 yards in 2020 and ’22. Last season, the Steelers’ Kenny PickettMitchell TrubiskyMason Rudolph platter struggled for the most part. Johnson also missed four games due to a hamstring injury, coming in with 717 receiving yards and five touchdowns — after he memorably failed to score in 2022.

This will leave the Steelers with George Pickens leading the way at receiver, though it should be expected the AFC North club will target another starter-caliber wideout in a deep draft at the position. Johnson is one of many Day 2 wideouts the modern Steelers have turned into long-term starters. Pittsburgh broke with its usual tradition of these players leaving during or after their rookie contracts by extending Johnson, but after trading Chase Claypool and then executing this swap — and then cutting Allen Robinson — Pittsburgh will need to give Pickett (or, more likely, Russell Wilson) more help.

The Panthers also gave Jackson a second contract, re-signing the boundary corner in 2022. He is due a $4MM roster bonus March 16; these teams are trading picks, players and bonus obligations. One year remains on Jackson’s pact, a three-year, $35.18MM deal signed after the expiration of his rookie contract.

The former second-rounder has spent his entire six-year career in Carolina, but he was due to count $15.72MM against the cap in 2024. The Steelers will have Jackson on their 2024 cap sheet at $10.5MM, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac.

Coming back from a 2022 Achilles tear, the 28-year-old corner also had a down 2023 in coverage. Jackson allowed three touchdowns as the nearest defender and surrendering an opposing passer rating of 107.7. Pro Football Focus graded Jackson just outside the top 60 at corner, though he has shown better form in the past. The Steelers, who released Patrick Peterson last week, will see if Jackson can become a fit opposite Joey Porter Jr.

Steelers May Trade WR Diontae Johnson?

It seems to be destined that Pittsburgh drafts and develops some incredible talent at wide receiver just to see them leave these days. Throughout their history, receivers like Mike Wallace, Plaxico Burress, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Santonio Holmes, Chase Claypool, and Emmanuel Sanders all play their way out of Pittsburgh some way or another after impressing over the course of their rookie deals. Even complementary receivers like Nate Washington, James Washington, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton show flashes during their time in Pittsburgh that earns them contracts elsewhere. It seems that Diontae Johnson may be next in line to join that list.

According to Dianna Russini of The Athletic, the Steelers are reportedly “open to listening to trade offers” on their five-year veteran wideout. After playing out his rookie contract as a third-round pick out of Toledo, Johnson signed a two-year, $36.71MM extension. He played through the first year of that deal last season, meaning 2024 will be a contract year for the 27-year-old. Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline confirms Johnson could be available “if the price is right.”

In the final year of his contract, Johnson is due to receive $10MM of cash with a $7MM base salary and a $3MM roster bonus. With $5.83MM of his initial signing bonus being attributed to the 2024 season, he will represent a cap hit of $15.83MM. If the team were to find a trade partner, they would be able free up $10MM of that salary cap space, eating the $5.83MM they already paid him as dead money.

A down year in 2023 and only five touchdowns in the past two years may have soured the public on Johnson after a career year in 2021, but Johnson has still been consistent enough to place himself firmly in Pittsburgh’s history. His 4,363 receiving yards in black and yellow is good for ninth-most in the franchise’s storied history, surpassing all of the names listed above. Despite his recent scoring drought, his 25 career receiving touchdowns ranks 11th all-time for the Steelers.

There’s sure to be interest in Johnson around the league. His consistency has appeared in his availability over the years. Before missing four games this past season, Johnson had only missed two games in his career. His lowest receiving total of 680 yards came in his rookie season, and he’s shown that he can get into the endzone up to seven or eight times a year. Teams desperate for a WR1 or extremely interested in a strong WR2 will likely be reaching out to Pittsburgh for a price check.

As for the Steelers, if Johnson departs, it will be next man up, per usual. George Pickens seems to have taken the reins of the receiving corps with a stellar sophomore season. They’ve got some young, inexperienced depth in Calvin Austin and Dez Fitzpatrick, as well as some veteran reserve players like Marquez Callaway, Miles Boykin, and Denzel Mims. They will probably want to add to the room to support Pickens, though. While they may take a peek at free agency or trades, like they did last year with Allen Robinson, but they’re just as likely to stick to their usual modus operandi and find a new pass catcher in the draft.

AFC North Rumors: Bengals, Battle, Watson, Steelers

The Bengals have already announced that starting quarterback Joe Burrow‘s season is over after he suffered a thumb ligament tear. The only information left to report on Burrow’s situation is that he is set to undergo wrist surgery tomorrow, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The expectation is that Burrow will be able to make a full recovery in time for the 2024 season.

On the administrative side of things, Rapoport also reports that the league is “investigating if Cincinnati should have listed Burrow on its injury report prior to” the game in which he seemingly suffered the season-ending injury. The night before the team’s matchup in Baltimore, Burrow was shown on a team social media post with an apparatus on his right wrist before the post was taken down. That same wrist is the one receiving surgery tomorrow. Rapoport says that the Bengals have “turned in hours of footage to the NFL showing that Burrow was healthy prior to the game.” The team’s doctors claim that the injury was acute and not one that happened over time.

The team opted to run Burrow’s offense and playbook in Jake Browning‘s first career start. The Bengals coaches had full confidence in Browning running the offense but still planned to run the ball a bit more than usual to take some pressure off his shoulders. Browning and the Bengals would lose to Pittsburgh, but Browning would complete 19 of 26 pass attempts for 227 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. The plan to run the ball a bit more fell through as limited possession time and offensive success led to only 11 carries.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC North, staying in Cincinnati for a beat:

  • Another position for the Bengals experienced a change in starter as defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo announced rookie third-round pick Jordan Battle as the team’s starting strong safety over Nick Scott earlier this week, per Kelsey Conway of USA Today. Scott still had a role in today’s game but played a clear second fiddle to Battle. Asked what about Battle made him the choice at starter, Anarumo claimed it was his tackling ability.
  • Another AFC North starting quarterback underwent surgery for their season-ending injury as the BrownsDeshaun Watson had a procedure done on his shoulder earlier this week, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. Watson is expected to be healed in time to start the 2024 season.
  • A big story in the struggles of the Steelers’ offense this year has been the frustration of wide receiver Diontae Johnson. Those frustrations reportedly boiled over after last week’s loss to the Browns, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, leading to a heated argument with star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick that needed to be broken up by teammates Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt. Johnson only had two catches on the day and was visibly upset on the sideline as he engaged in an animated conversation with head coach Mike Tomlin. Johnson’s annoyance would continue as he was later seen “chirping” at the coaches all the way to the locker room after the game before being confronted by Fitzpatrick. Perhaps the firing of former offensive coordinator Matt Canada helped to cool Johnson down, as Johnson received eight targets today.

Steelers Activate WR Diontae Johnson, Place TE Pat Freiermuth On IR

The Steelers will welcome back a key member of their offense, but they’re also set to lose their starting tight end for at least the next month. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Steelers have activated wide receiver Diontae Johnson from injured reserve. To make room on the roster, the Steelers have placed tight end Pat Freiermuth on injured reserve.

Johnson suffered a hamstring injury during the season opener that ultimately required a stint on injured reserve. The receiver was designated to return to practice earlier this week, opening his 21-day window to be activated.

The former third-round pick has been a productive member of the Steelers offense through his first four seasons in the NFL. Johnson earned his first career Pro Bowl nod in 2021 after finishing with 107 catches for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns. With Kenny Pickett taking over for Ben Roethlisberger in 2022, Johnson’s numbers took a bit of a step back, with the receiver finishing the campaign with 86 catches for 882 yards and no touchdowns.

George Pickens has picked up the slack through the first chunk of the season, hauling in 22 catches for 393 yards. Allen Robinson and Calvin Austin have combined for only 280 yards, so Johnson will surely provide a spark to Pittsburgh’s offense.

“I am very excited. It’s been a long process, fighting to get back. I am looking forward to showing them I am ready for Sunday,” Johnson said this week (via the team’s website).

Freiermuth suffered a hamstring injury in Week 4 that forced him to miss the following week’s game, but the tight end was expected to be good to go following the Week 6 bye. Freiermuth aggravated the hamstring injury during practice this week, and now he’ll miss at least the next four games while recovering from the injury.

The former second-round pick had a standout sophomore season in 2022, finishing with 63 catches for 732 yards. He’s struggled to put up similar production in 2023, even with Johnson out of the lineup. In four games, Freiermuth has hauled in only eight passes for 53 yards.

Rookie third-round pick Darnell Washington should jump to the top of the depth chart with Freiermuth out. The Steelers are also rostering Connor Heyward and Rodney Williams at the position, with Noah Gindorff currently sitting on the practice squad.

Steelers Designate WR Diontae Johnson, RB Anthony McFarland For Return

The Steelers could soon have reinforcements available on offense. Both wideout Diontae Johnson and running back Anthony McFarland returned to practice on Monday, per a team announcement.

[RELATED: Steelers Not Moving On From OC Matt Canada]

Both players have been on injured reserve since Week 2, a move which guaranteed at least a four-week absence. The fact they have each started practicing at the first available opportunity is an encouraging sign for their availability as soon as this Sunday. Today’s move opens their three-week window to be activated and avoid reverting to season-ending IR.

A hamstring injury forced Johnson to miss the past four weeks, but he has been confident he would be able to return following the team’s bye. That seems likely given his immediate return to the practice field, and suiting up in Week 6 would be a welcomed development for a Steelers offense which is in need of improvement. Johnson has led Pittsburgh in receiving yards the past three years, and he has received at least 144 targets in each of those campaigns.

The 27-year-old has produced one 1,000-yard season in that span (1,136 in 2021), and he has been a consistent presence in the team’s passing game since his rookie year in 2019. That helped earn him a two-year, $36.71MM extension last offseason as Pittsburgh made the rare move of re-upping a homegrown receiver. Johnson will regain his starting spot upon return alongside George Pickens and Allen Robinson, and he will aim to end his touchdown-less streak which lasted all of 2022 and continued in his season debut of this year.

McFarland, on the other hand, will likely have a more challenging path to playing time when he is activated. The Maryland product sits firmly behind Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren on the RB depth chart, and the latter two should be expected to carry the load moving forward. Once Johnson and McFarland are officially brought back, the Steelers will have six IR activations remaining.

Steelers Move WR Diontae Johnson, RB Anthony McFarland To IR

Coming into this season, Diontae Johnson had only missed two games in four years. He will double his absence count because of a Monday transaction. Johnson is now on the Steelers’ IR list.

A hamstring injury sustained in Week 1 will sideline him for at least four games. Johnson will head to IR for the first time in his career. Pittsburgh making this move before its Week 2 game will allow for its top wideout to come back by Week 6. The Steelers also moved backup running back Anthony McFarland to IR ahead of their Monday-night tilt with the Browns.

Teams are allotted eight IR activations per season. Johnson will undoubtedly be one of the Steelers’ activations. A knee injury sidelined McFarland, whose return timetable is uncertain. Given Johnson’s injury, it would be a bit of a surprise if he were not ready to return when first eligible. Mike Tomlin had recently stopped short of indicating Johnson would miss multiple games.

The former third-round pick became immediately productive for the team — one that has consistently developed second- and third-round receiver picks — and has become the rare Steelers wideout to receive an extension. Although JuJu Smith-Schuster signed a one-year deal after the expiration of his rookie pact in 2021, Johnson joined Antonio Brown and Hines Ward as the only Steelers starting wideouts given multiyear extensions during their rookie deals. Johnson signed a two-year, $36.71MM deal before last year’s training camp, joining A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Terry McLaurin and Deebo Samuel as 2019 Day 2 wideout draftees to sign extensions before the 2022 season started.

Johnson, 27, led the Steelers in receiving yards during each of the past three seasons, helping the team to the AFC North title in 2020 and posting a career-high 1,161 yards in 2021. Last season, Johnson aided Kenny Pickett‘s development but famously did not find the end zone during an 86-catch, 882-yard season. The Toledo alum will need to wait a bit before having the chance to return to the end zone this year.

Pittsburgh will need to lean on George Pickens, the acrobatic catch maven beginning his second season, and trade acquisition Allen Robinson. The 10th-year vet has struggled for the past two seasons, disappointing on a Bears franchise tag and in his lone Rams season. The Rams are paying part of Robinson’s contract. The former 1,000-yard receiver did catch five passes for 64 yards in the Steelers’ opener. Calvin Austin, a slot player who spent last season on IR, also stands to see his role grow while Johnson recovers.

To replace McFarland behind Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, the Steelers elevated running back Qadree Ollison from their practice squad.

Diontae Johnson Facing Multi-Week Absence

SEPTEMBER 13: Evaluations on Johnson’s injury have produced a timetable that could leave Johnson shut down for a month. The fifth-year wideout is expected to miss up to four weeks with this hamstring ailment, Dulac adds. Coming into this season, Johnson had only missed two games in total as a pro.

SEPTEMBER 12: The Steelers’ defense was dealt a major blow in their Week 1 loss with Cameron Heyward suffering a groin injury which will sideline him for several weeks. The team’s offense will likewise be shorthanded moving forward.

Wideout Diontae Johnson suffered a hamstring injury against the 49ers on Sunday and it is expected to keep him off the field for a few weeks, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Further evaluation will take place later in the week, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette adds. An absence of any significant length would be notable for the Steelers’ receiving corps.

Johnson exited Pittsburgh’s loss against San Francisco in the third quarter and did not return. He did not manage to find the endzone during his limited game action, extending a touchdown drought which spanned all of the 2022 campaign. In spite of that, the 27-year-old remains a major part of the team’s passing game, having recorded at least 86 catches and 882 yards in each of the past three seasons. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in 2021, and earned his lone Pro Bowl nod in the process.

That production earned the former third-rounder a two-year, $36.71MM extension last offseason, putting an end to speculation about his short-term future with the organization. Johnson had been pegged as a likely free agent departure, but he is now on the books through 2024. His absence will be felt in a Steelers’ WR room which will now need to lean heavily on second-year deep threat George Pickens and veteran Allen Robinson. The latter, acquired via trade this offseason, was pegged for a move to the slot but he will likely now resume operating on the perimeter, as he has for much of his career. 2022 fourth-rounder Calvin Austin should see an uptick in slot usage.

Pittsburgh is currently without Miles Boykin due to injury, and Cody White is on injured reserve. The Johnson injury thus leaves the team rather thin at the receiver spot moving forward, and plenty will be asked of Pickens, Robinson and tight end Pat Freiermuth (who himself encountered an injury on Sunday) in the passing game when the Steelers play the Browns in Week 2.

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Jones, Ravens

A bit of a controversy developed in Pittsburgh this week. Mitch Trubisky and Diontae Johnson engaged in a shouting match during halftime of the Steelers-Jets contest, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes, adding that this provided the impetus for Trubisky’s benching. Mike Tomlin did not confirm or deny a shouting match between the quarterback and the team’s highest-paid wideout ensued, though Johnson essentially confirmed a football-related argument took place. But The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly adds the dispute was not the deciding factor in the 16th-year coach moving to Kenny Pickett for the second half of that game. Johnson wanted more targets from Trubisky in that Week 4 game, Dulac adds, leading to the team’s original starter standing up to the fourth-year receiver.

Tomlin benched Trubisky primarily due to his underwhelming performance during the season’s first month, with Kaboly adding he had already decided to go with Pickett. Trubisky sat throughout Week 5 but played well when reinserted into Pittsburgh’s lineup following Pickett’s Week 6 concussion. Despite a bounce-back relief effort against the Buccaneers, Trubisky is set to return to the bench. Pickett cleared concussion protocol Friday and is in line to start against the Dolphins, Tomlin said. Levi Wallace and Pat Freiermuth also cleared the protocol, arming the Steelers with key starters.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • It looks likely Deion Jones will make his Browns debut Sunday. The team held off from activating the recently acquired linebacker from IR last week, giving the longtime Falcons starter more time after designating him for return. Jones is progressing fast in Joe Woods‘ defense, per linebackers coach Jason Tarver (via cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, on Twitter). Tarver said Jones could be in position to wear the green dot, signifying headset communication, in the near future. The Browns, who lost Anthony Walker to a season-ending injury in Week 3, acquired the six-year Atlanta cog for merely a 2024 pick swap.
  • Cleveland will be without multiple Pro Bowlers against Baltimore, however. The Browns ruled out Wyatt Teller and Denzel Ward for their divisional matchup. Teller is battling a calf strain, while Ward will miss a second consecutive game due to a concussion he suffered in Week 5.
  • Ben Powers has operated as the Ravens‘ left guard this season, winning a training camp competition. While 2021 third-round pick Ben Cleveland was nominally in that battle, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes the younger Ben in this matchup did not mount a serious push at winning the job opposite Kevin Zeitler. The Ravens have been frustrated with Cleveland’s inability to practice consistently due to injuries, Zrebiec adds. Cleveland missed the first week of training camp due to a failed conditioning test and has missed the past two games due to a foot injury. The Ravens did see Cleveland return to practice Thursday. Cleveland, who started four games last season, has not played an offensive snap this year. Baltimore was holding a three-player competition for the job Powers won. The third entrant, Tyre Phillips, is now with the Giants.