All-Pro wide receiver Diontae Johnson was visibly upset after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ disappointing Week 11 loss to the Cleveland Browns. And a new report from ESPN revealed Johnson’s frustration escalated into a “heated” exchange with one of his teammates.
ESPN learned Johnson’s frustration spilled over into the Steelers locker room last Sunday, and, at some point, he appeared to target defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Steelers veterans Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt stepped in and broke up the spat.
The report added that Watt emphasized the importance of the team sticking together.
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The reported altercation came just a couple of days before longtime head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed offensive coordinator Matt Canada had been fired.
“Matt Canada has been relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator,” Tomlin said in a statement. “I appreciate Matt’s hard work and dedication, and I wish him the best moving forward in his career.”
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The lack of production from the Steelers’ offense has been widely discussed this season. The team produced just 77 passing yards and 10 points in its game against the AFC North rival Browns.
Johnson finished the game against Cleveland with two catches for 16 yards. He also appeared to have a colorful exchange with Tomlin during the game on the sideline.
Sources told ESPN the Steelers appear to have moved on from the incident and were able to focus on preparing for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Running backs coach Eddie Faulkner was promoted to offensive coordinator, but quarterback coach Mike Sullivan is expected to handle the majority of the play-calling duties during games.
“You hate to see it,” Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett told reporters this week. “You don’t want to see one of your coaches lose their job. We all got to be better.”
Earlier this week, Faulkner said the team felt it had let Canada down.
“I couldn’t say enough good about Matt Canada,” Faulkner said. “It’s a little bit bittersweet in that way because when you sit back and you see all that goes on, and all that’s being said about him and the offense, we all — and I’m speaking for the offense when I say this to staff — we all felt that we’re all part of that. Nobody’s absolving themselves from anything that’s happened in that regard. We feel like we let him down.”
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The Steelers have been outgained in all ten of their games. Pittsburgh ranks 28th in both points per game and yards per game.
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Tomlin said he decided to promote Faulkner due to his “steady voice and demeanor” and “natural” communication in handling the running backs.