Ed: Steelers Need to Find a Fullback
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.
Trade for Hynoski from the Giants. We should have drafted him last year anyway.
- Charles Harris-OLB, Missouri
- Rasul Douglas-CB, West Virginia
- Chris Godwin-WR, Penn State
- John Johnson-S, Boston College
- James Conner-RB, Pitt
- Nazair Jones-DT, North Carolina
- Garrett Sickels, DE/OLB, Penn State
Pretty sure that Ed means Ron Blackledge, who is Todd's dad...
Originally Posted by hawaiiansteel
Both were with the Steelers in John Jackson's rookie year, 1988...Ron was an OL coach and Todd was a QB...
Ed: Meet Steelers New Starting Fullback
SATURDAY, 11 AUGUST 2012 WRITTEN BY ED BOUCHETTE
Bruce Arians once famously said he did not have a fullback in his offense, and David Johnson’s ACL/MCL injury Thursday night prompted others to think Todd Haley no longer had one either.
The Steelers do have a fullback, however. His name is Will Johnson, he is the only fullback listed on their roster and he’s about to do something he did not do much at West Virginia University, start a football game.
This time last year, nobody wanted Johnson, who went undrafted and then unsigned as team’s scrambled at the end of the lockout to fill their rosters as training camps opened. So, he took three jobs and worked out with a trainer in Charlotte, N.C. last year, getting precisely no invites from NFL teams.
That changed in March. He had to ask, and received, permission to attend WVU’s pro day workout for the second time. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert were impressed enough with his 4.49 run in the 40 and his 30 bench presses that they asked him to come to Pittsburgh for a physical and to sign a contract and not tell anyone about it.
“They called me over and told me they were impressed with everything I did that day as far as my speed and strength,’’ Johnson said, “and they wanted to bring me in and sign me.”
With David Johnson taking over at fullback, Will Johnson looked to be a player whose goal could be to make it on the practice squad. Now his goal would be to block guys like Ray Lewis into submission, the way Dan Kreider once did as the last pure Steelers fullback.
Steelers coaches have liked what they have seen of Johnson in training camp. The former linebacker, running back, tight end who ran the 100 meters in track and played basketball in high school has the athletic ability, has the receiving ability and has shown so far that he can block on the run.
“He’s very physical and he’s very athletic,’’ said Steve McLendon, who has seen Johnson from his nose tackle position.”
Naturally, Johnson wasn’t interested in getting the job the way he did, especially from a teammate who had taken him under his wings.
“Not only is he a good teammate of mine, he’s a good friend. Not only does it hurt the team, it hurts me as well. I learned a lot from him.”
David Johnson believes Will Johnson can handle the job, which really hasn’t been a job in the Steelers offense under Arians. Haley wants a pure fullback, a lead blocker who also has the ability to catch some passes.
“He was pushing me all camp, making me better and to step up my game,” David Johnson said. “I think he’ll be a great person for the job. The things he’s doing, it seems like he’s been playing it for years.”
His coaches gave Johnson decent grades for his play against the Eagles Thursday night, nearly three full quarters of work. Blocking on the run is “still a process,” Will Johnson said. “It can become a strength.”
I hope this Johnson doesn't get a ton of hate.... DJ looked fine to me before his injury.
Pittsburgh Steelers May Have to Look to Free Agency for Depth at Fullback After David Johnson’s ACL Injury
August 10th, 2012
By Mark Mihalko
Now that the first preseason game is out of the way, as well as the first major injury of the 2012 campaign, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be able to regroup and continue training camp. However, that injury, losing fullback David Johnson for the season to an ACL tear, may be cause for concern moving forward.
Unlike past seasons under former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, where the Steelers did not have a traditional fullback, using tight end / H-back David Johnson in that role, the new Steelers offense is different. Now with Johnson out, what little depth the team had at that position will definitely be tested. .
With Johnson out, the only other fullback on the roster is offseason acquisition, street free agent Will Johnson from West Virginia, who was signed after his performance at the universities pro day. In fact, in looking at the remaining free agents at the position, the Steelers may have no other option but to live or die by his performance.
Of the remaining free agent fullbacks available on the open market, a couple names do stick out.
The first, Tennessee Titans fullback Ahmard Hall, should be familiar to Steelers fans as the 5-11, 247 pound blocker has been involved in the Titans offense since making the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2006. Hall is a powerful lead blocker with some ability as a receiver, and it is his blocking that lands him another contract somewhere.
Another player who could be of interest is former Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens tight end / fullback Kris Wilson. The former Pittsburgh Panther, is a Harrisburg native and familiar with the dynamic of playing with the Steelers. Yes, the 6-2, 250 pounder has been somewhat of a bust since being drafted in the second round of the 2004 draft, but at this point he may be worth a shot as competition.
At this point, it appears that the job is Johnson’s to lose, but there is still a lot of training camp and preseason left.
After injury, Steelers receptive to fill-in fullback
By Alan Robinson
Published: Saturday, August 11, 2012
Steelers fullback Will Johnson during practice at St. Vincent College Aug. 11, 2012
A year ago, Will Johnson was in shipping. Now he’s in receiving.
Remarkable what a fortuitous bit of timing, an exceptionable tryout, an unforgiving injury, an altered scheme and a refusal to accept “no” can do for a player who once had no reason to expect to be in the Steelers’ training camp. Or to be doing what he is doing in that camp.
Right now — and there is no guarantee how long this will last — the former West Virginia H-back is the Steelers’ starting fullback. Or the closest thing to it.
“I believe I will be the starter,” Johnson said.
Yes, a player who couldn’t get an NFL training camp tryout last summer is playing a position that wasn’t even in the Steelers’ offense last season.
“You rarely see things like this happen,” Johnson conceded Saturday, following a position meeting in which he was told he graded out well in the preseason game against the Eagles, “Just like you rarely get to see guys do their pro days over again, like I did. It was the right time, the right place, and I was able to impress Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert.”
The 6-foot-2, 238-pound Johnson wasn’t a starter, much less a star, in West Virginia’s spread offense. He had 25 career receptions, with no more than nine catches and 107 yards in a season.
Despite his athletic talent — he was a linebacker, running back, tight end, track sprinter and basketball player at Centerville High in Dayton — he went undrafted in 2011. After the lockout, he couldn’t even get an invite to an NFL camp.
Regardless, he began training in Charlotte with former NFL player Andy Hendel. He also worked three part-time jobs, one with a shipping company and another with a landscaper.
He had to get permission from West Virginia to attend its pro day in March since he wasn’t a current Mountaineers player. There, he surprised Colbert and Tomlin by running a fast 40-yard dash and doing 30 repetitions with 225 pounds in weights, a high number for a player at his position.
Whatever the position was. The Steelers didn’t even have a fullback in Bruce Arians’ offense last season only to restore it when Todd Haley took over.
Johnson quickly found a mentor in David Johnson, who had been listed as a tight end but was now a slash — a fullback/tight end. But David Johnson was lost for the season when he tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee Thursday in Philadelphia, and that leaves 22-year-old Will Johnson as the only fullback in camp. Tight end Jamie McCoy also could play there.
“He’s been working there, with others. We’re going to continue to work with the healthy ones and see who sorts themselves out,” Tomlin said Saturday.
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders thinks it will sort out Johnson’s way.
“Will Johnson is a great fullback,” Sanders said. “He has exceptional hands for a fullback, and he can run routes and everything. I’ve been high on him since the OTAs. I feel like he can be a great asset.”
Receiving isn’t a problem, but blocking is more of a challenge for a player who didn’t do much of it in college. In the Steelers’ scheme, he could line up in the backfield or as an extra tight end. He blocks about 80 percent of the time and is a receiver the other 20 percent.
“It’s a lot different for me, going from a spread offense to a pro style,” Johnson said. “I’m trying to grasp it as much as I can. … Having the mentality of a linebacker playing fullback helps. A lot of that comes naturally to me.”
The Steelers haven’t had a pure fullback since Dan Kreider in 2007. They might need to go looking for an experienced one but, in the interim, Johnson intends to take advantage of his unlikely opportunity.
“I’m starting to develop that fullback demeanor. I want to block,” Johnson said. “I’m starting to get that edge.”
Nice article from Wexell:
If the fullback is going to be used in the passing game, even occasionally, somebody with Johnson's athleticism could be a nice asset.
That was a big mistake. Drafted him? Hell, could have signed him as an undrafted FA and STILL didn't bother to get him; he has been working out smashingly with the Giants. Sucks. Who ever was behind not getting that kid should be ashamed.
Originally Posted by Oviedo