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Steelers trade WR Diontae Johnson to Panthers, sources say

PITTSBUGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers send wide receiver Diontae Johnson At Carolina Panthers for the cornerback Don Jackson and a trade of picks, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Tuesday.

The Steelers send the Panthers a seventh-round pick in addition to receiver and receive a sixth-round pick with cornerback.

Johnson was the Steelers' most experienced wide receiver and longest-tenured offensive player. A third-round pick in the 2019 draft, he is in the final year of his contract and comes with a $10 million cap hit to the Panthers, leaving $5.8 million in dead cap space in Pittsburgh.

The trade isn't official yet, but Johnson said goodbye to Pittsburgh on social media.

“5 years ago you took me in and treated me like family from day one,” he wrote. “I will always be grateful for the memories made and the relationships I will cherish forever. To my teammates, coaches, staff and fans who have been there through the good times and the bad…thank you for allowing me to become the the man I am today.”

Jackson, meanwhile, has spent his entire career in Carolina after being selected in the second round of the 2018 draft. He started 16 games in 2023 after an Achilles injury ended his 2022 season prematurely. Jackson, also in the final year of his contract, has a cap hit of $10.6 million for the Steelers and a dead cap hit of $9.7 million for the Panthers.

A league source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler last week that the Panthers plan to trade or release Jackson, who has 14 career interceptions, including four in his rookie season but none last season. After Jackson, Carolina is looking for a starting corner to play opposite. Jaycee Corne. However, Johnson gives the quarterback Bryce Youngthe No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft, an added weapon as the Panthers look to emerge from an NFL-worst 2-15 record last season.

Young's only returning receivers who made an impact in 2023 were Adam Thielen and rookie Jonathan Mingo. Johnson immediately gives Young a deep threat he didn't have a year ago when the former Alabama star ranked 32nd in the NFL averaging 5.5 yards per pass attempt.

Johnson has five touchdown receptions and 717 receiving yards on 51 catches in 2023, after not scoring a single touchdown the previous season. Johnson also earned a Pro Bowl nomination in 2021 with his only 1,000-yard season and career-high eight touchdown receptions in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's final year.

In five seasons with the Steelers, Johnson accumulated 4,363 receiving yards on 391 catches and 25 touchdowns.

Johnson was criticized in 2023 for his apparent lack of effort during a play against the Cleveland Browns when he didn't look for a loose ball, and he drew the ire of fans for a fall-laden season in 2020. But Johnson received frequent praise from teammates and coaches for his route running and ability to open.

Johnson's departure coupled with the release of Allen Robinson, however, creates a need at wide receiver George Pickens is a clear threat in the passing game, and the team has promising talent in Calvin Austin III.

The addition of Jackson fills a void in the secondary with the release of Patrick Peterson. Added a cornerback to pair with a second-year player Joey Porter Jr.. was a priority, and Jackson is a start at filling the position with a veteran player.

ESPN's David Newton contributed to this report.

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