Mark Madden’s Hot Take: For Steelers players, ‘hold-ins’ work every time

Steelers training camp is the home of the “hold-in.” If it wasn’t born there, it was perfected there. It’s part of the scenery, like lawn chairs.

TJ Watt’s was the noisiest.

Diontae Johnson’s was the latest.

Minkah Fitzpatrick limited his to OTAs and minicamp.

Cam Heyward did it. Probably. It was so low-key that nobody remembers for sure.

But it worked every time. Four-for-four. You’re under contract and obliged to work but don’t fully participate in practice ’til you get what you want.

It’s no risk, high reward. But only if you’re employed by the Steelers.

Try a “hold-in” where you work. It won’t end well.


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Johnson’s contract is fair to both player and franchise.

Johnson didn’t get the average annual value of $20 million or more that 11 wide receivers got this offseason. But he got a $17.5 million signing bonus, which facilitates a better lifestyle tout de suite. The extension’s AAV is $18.35 million.

It’s No. 1 receiver money, almost. That’s fitting. Johnson is a No. 1 receiver, almost.

Kicker Chris Boswell got the extension he wanted without a “hold-in.” It can be done.

The Steelers organization has gone from being strong-willed to not wanting its players to ever know an unpleasant moment. The former died with Dan Rooney.

If you “hold in,” you get a contract extension. If you want to be traded, pack your bags. (LeGarrette Blount, James Harrison and Melvin Ingram are examples of the latter.)

Next year doesn’t look promising when it comes to a sexy “hold-in.” Players such as Chase Claypool and Alex Highsmith would have to build up lots of equity in the interim.

But you couldn’t blame anybody for trying.

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