The Pittsburgh Steelers just can’t find a way to side with the NFL referees. The NFL fined wide receiver Diontae Johnson $25,000 for disparaging the officiating team for what he said was biased officiating that cost them an Oct. 29 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin first spoke to the referees about their dynamics after narrowly missing the Los Angeles Rams in Week 6. Tomlin said that he and the rest of the team need to be better at not taking penalties and forcing the referees’ hands.
Now let’s move on to the aftermath of Week 7. The Steelers received more calls that negatively impacted them. This time it actually cost them the victory they needed.
Johnson praises the referees’ calls as “terrible” and “stupid” worth $25,000
ESPN’s Brook Pryor shared this Johnson soundbite on his frustrations:
“They called some stupid things,” Johnson said after the 20-10 loss. “They should be fined for making bad calls, making worse, terrible calls, things like that. That’s how angry I am. They cost us the game. I don’t care what nobody says. They cost us the game.”
Johnson continued: “[The officials] wanted [the Jaguars] to win, brother. They called, everything was in their favor. They got every little call, but it is what it is.”
Pittsburgh received six penalties in the game – the same number as the Jaguars. The refs actually caught Jacksonville for further calls in the fourth quarter. However, Pittsburgh’s two penalties in three minutes further stymied any chance of a late-game surge.
Johnson may be more frustrated with the two interceptions that backup quarterback Mitch Trubitsky threw on his last two plays.
Still, Johnson’s growing dissatisfaction was probably not just due to flag-throwing. The loss of Kenny Pickett with a rib injury in the first half was a huge blow to the team. Johnson and the Steelers need to work harder not to upset the referees on or off the field.
Johnson’s history of fines and controversial incidents
Given the evolution of the NFL in recent years, Johnson’s comments were an obvious provocation for the imposition of a fine. His shot was needed for a Steelers offense that was on the rise after weeks of criticism from Matt Canada. He just has to be careful not to inflame it too much.
Together, the Steelers must keep their guard down to prevent unnecessary catcalls on the field and money leaking from their pockets.
Historically, Johnson hasn’t taken too many hits to his bank account. In 2022, he was fined for taunting. Johnson also reportedly punched Trubisky in the face during a locker room fracas that same year. He focused the rest of his competitive passion on great games for the Black and Gold.
Luckily, the Steelers bounced back with a 20-16 win over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday behind Johnson’s 90 REC yards and 1 REC TD, despite recording a whopping 10 penalties that cost them 80 yards on the day. How they respond in their next game will give Coach Tomlin a better sense of whether or not he needs to catch up to his guys and ensure that the mistakes mentioned above don’t prevent them from capturing the AFC South title.
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