June 22, 2024

The Steelers have not been shy in their interest for one of the NFL’s top upcoming free-agent defenders this offseason.

But he has since revealed it will be costly to acquire him. Will Pittsburgh pay up?

Why are the Pittsburgh Steelers called the Steelers?

That player is Bears Pro Bowl CB Jaylon Johnson, who the Steelers already made a “serious push” for at the trade deadline, according to Yahoo’s Jordan Schultz. But Chicago’s price was just too high.

Pittsburgh won’t need to give up any draft capital if Johnson is still available come March, but it will still cost the team a big paycheck, according to Johnson’s latest comments at the Pro Bowl.

“Heart’s definitely in Chicago, mind’s definitely on the money,” Johnson told NFL.com. “So, I mean, we’ll figure out if we can make them both come together and get something done. I’m looking forward to see what’s to come.”

Johnson, a second-round pick in 2020, certainly earned himself a big payday this season, posting 36 tackles, one forced fumble, four interceptions, 10 passes defensed and one touchdown.

The 24-year-old was also PFF’s highest-graded corner, only allowing 25 catches for 195 yards on 50 targets, and the 33.3 passer rating by quarterbacks when targeting him was the lowest among corners with at least 150 coverage snaps.

According to Spotrac, Johnson is expected to receive a five-year, $78.71M contract ($15.7M per year) this offseason. Whether or not it’s with Chicago remains to be seen. Although, he seemed confident the two sides would reach an agreement in January.

“I expect to get a deal done,” Johnson said on the “Parkins & Spiegel Show.” “It’s going to get done. We barely finished the season yesterday. I think some things will be done hopefully quicker rather than later.”

Johnson’s tone seems to have changed and it could be a benefit to the Steelers, who could use another young cornerback.

Pittsburgh seems to have hit a home run with rookie CB Joey Porter Jr., but veterans Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace underwhelmed in 2023. Pairing Johnson with Porter Jr. would instantly give the team one of the best cornerback duos in the league.

The Steelers will need to clear up some cap space to make such a move, though, as they are projected to be $15.66 million over the salary cap in 2024, per Pro Football Focus. But that shouldn’t be a problem as there are several moves they can make.

For now, Pittsburgh can only wait and see if the Bears and Johnson can find common ground. But Johnson’s latest comments should give Steelers fans some hope that he could

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