Pittsburgh Steelers' star wide receiver Diontae Johnson has been slapped with a $25,000 penalty for his scathing remarks on officiating, following a disheartening defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars, ESPN sources report. This substantial fine stems from Johnson's outburst over what he described as biased refereeing during the game on October 29, which concluded with a 20-10 scoreboard favoring the Jaguars.
Johnson’s critique of the officials didn't find its way into the NFL's weekly roundup of disciplinary actions, triggering further discussion. The wideout didn't mince words, accusing the game officials of tipping the scales, "They was calling some stupid stuff...
They should get fined for making worse, terrible calls and stuff like that," an irate Johnson expressed postgame, pinning the blame for the loss squarely on their shoulders.
Fine Sparks Outrage
ProFootballTalk.com was the first to broadcast the news of Johnson's fine, shining a spotlight on the receiver’s discontent which centered around what he perceived as a call disparity.
He cited a particular gripe with the roughing the passer decisions. Steelers' Keanu Neal drew a flag for his hit on Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, yet a similar play that led to the sidelining of Steelers' own quarterback, Kenny Pickett, by Jaguars' Adam Gotsis went unpenalized during the game.
Though Gotsis was later fined a lesser sum for the hit, Neal's wallet remained untouched. A disputed offsides call on Steelers' guard Isaac Seumalo added to Johnson's frustration, as it voided a successful long-range field goal.
This decision alone could have changed the game's momentum before halftime. The fine does not come without its share of controversy, as Johnson’s audacious comments included a dubious suggestion about the officials' integrity, "I didn't like the refs today.
They must've got paid good today or something," he alleged, highlighting the impact of the negated field goal. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and NFL officiating chief Walt Anderson have since addressed the contentious call.
Tomlin, in his 17 years of coaching, claimed never to have witnessed such an offsides penalty on a field goal attempt, prompting Anderson to assert the call as a field judgment. Referee Alan Eck echoed the sentiment in the pool report, branding it a "judgment call." Johnson's outburst and the consequent fine have become a flashpoint for discussions about the consistency and transparency of NFL officiating, with implications for players' freedom to speak out against what they believe to be injustices on the field.
The event underscores an ongoing debate around the enforcement of rules and the repercussions faced by those who publicly criticize officiating decisions.