Ed: Steelers Need to Find a Fullback
FRIDAY, 10 AUGUST 2012 WRITTEN BY ED BOUCHETTE
It’s not such a good morning for David Johnson, the tight end turned h-back turned fullback turned tight end/fullback. He has an apparent torn ACL in his right knee that will knock him out for the season and knock this new offense for it’s first loop.
Johnson, entering his fourth season, had become an important part of the Steelers’ offense. Bruce Arians moved him around and then Todd Haley made him strictly a fullback. However, Mike Tomlin announced on Tuesday that Johnson would continue to play some tight end along with fullback because his versatility was so valuable.
Scratch that. They do not have another player on the roster who could do the various jobs that Johnson did. They now must either go with a pure fullbback – Will Johnson is the only one listed – or go with another hybrid, such as Jamie McCoy, who has been listed as both a fullback and tight end.
Will Johnson has had his good moments and not so good in camp and he will now get a good, long look at fullback. He is listed as 6-2, 238. He finished up at WVU last year, went undrafted and then went unsigned. He was not on a team or in a camp in 2011. The Steelers signed him before the draft this year.
I was told that they will probably have to go outside to look for a fullback.
Another former WVU fullback, Owen Schmitt is with the Oakland Raiders, having signed there in May. Former Pitt fullback Lousaka Polite is available after being cut by the Miami Dolphins before last season. He turns 31 next month.
The injury to rookie Mike Adams’ right knee was less severe, according to coach Mike Tomlin, but not definitive yet. Neither was his performance, which was spotty. He had some good blocks and some whiffs, including one that led to a Ben Roethlisberger sack.
While he may have been promoted over Trai Essex at left tackle, he still has to contend with Max Starks and what we saw Thursday night, Adams may have to give way to Starks.
However, it was the first preseason game for the rookie. I can remember the first preseason game for another rookie left tackle, John Jackson, in New Orleans.
Jackson had to face a good Saints pass rusher in Pat Swilling in that preseason game. He did not fare well, not even close to doing as well as Adams last night. Swilling had 3 ˝ sacks that game, if I recall correctly, and all came over Jackson.
Coach Chuck Noll wanted to cut Jackson after that but offensive line coach Todd Blackledge talked him out of it. Jackson made the team and went on to have a nice career as a left tackle.
It’s early yet.
What’s to say about the new offense? It looked like the one the Steelers have mocked for years, the “dink and dunk.’’ With Ben Roethlisberger in there, they hardly tried a deep pass – Emmanuel Sanders caught a medium-range one down the left sideline after Roethlisberger scrambled away from pressure.
Talking to players afterward, they said they wanted to work on the running game and those short passes. They said the deep passes will come – and let’s not forget that their prime deep receiver, Mike Wallace, is still missing.
They also will play the Eagles in their fourth real game of the season, so they did not want to exploit any matchups on Thursday they might want to deploy Oct. 7 at Heinz Field.
That long, 16-play first series had to be both a success and a disappointment for the Steelers because of the lack of big plays and after that, what did it mean? Second-teamers going against second-teamers.
First preseason games are never an indication of much other than perhaps some individual performances, and we will get to that shortly. Mike Tomlin bemoaned the fact the Steelers did not “finish,’’ but most of those who finished the game but did not “finish” will not be around when the Steelers play the Eagles again.
Baron Batch had a lot of carries for the Steelers and not a lot of yards – 19 for 41 – but he flashed a large smile in the locker room afterward. It was his first game since his days at Texas Tech and he was more than happy to get banged around last night. His ACL was torn just before the first preseason game last year as a rookie.
And what about all these ACL tears? David Johnson’s marks the third ACL tear to a starter in the past two games for the Steelers, the fourth in the past three games.
Casey Hampton and Max Starks both left the playoff game in Denver with torn ACLs. Rashard Mendenhall left the final regular season game in Cleveland with a torn ACL. All three remain on PUP.
It is noteworthy that all four ACL tears occurred on grass fields. Batch’s, last August, occurred on the one artificial field at Saint Vincent College.
Curtis Brown has to be looking to recover quickly after he was beaten for two long touchdown passes last night. He is the cornerback who some believed had moved ahead of Cortez Allen as rookies last year, and given a good shot at winning that left cornerback job.
Keenan Lewis, after the first preseason game, holds serve on that starting position.
What does a quarterback’s passer rating mean? Combined, the three who played for the Steelers’ in Philadelphia Thursday had a 128.4 passer rating, which is not far off the highest possible. Don’t know that anyone came away from that game thinking there was perfect play at the quarterback position but two TD passes and no interceptions will always produce a good passer rating.
Even if Jeremy Kapinos returns to punt after missing most of training camp with back problems, he will find himself in competition for the job he’s had the past two seasons after Daniel Sepulveda was injured.
Drew Butler, an undrafted rookie from Georgia, averaged 49.7 yards on six punts last night, 44.3 net with a long of 61. That’s a great start for the rookie.
Have to run to catch my ride back home from Philly. Practice resumes Saturday and I’ll be there. Open to the public starting at 3 p.m.