We all knew there were going to be changes, some drastic, when Todd Haley took command of the Steelers offense. And though I wouldn’t list this one as ‘drastic,’ I will categorize the recent revelation as ‘big.’ David Johnson will be playing the fullback slot fulltime.
David Johnson can stop taking the Haloperidol (look it up) and concentrate on having one job and one job only – fullback. No more of this tight end business. No more of trying to remember where to line up each snap – behind Ben’s butt or next to Gilbert? I’m still not sure whether or not this will be a good move for Johnson, but I do like what this move means in the big picture of Steelers football. Let’s talk about Dave, first.
Johnson took a fourth of his snaps in the fullback position last season. The rest, he was either lined up at the line on the left or right side, or off the line in those ‘jumbo’ packages. So, he’s no stranger to the fullback position. He was, however, really starting to get good at being that 2nd TE the Steelers
like liked to utilize in their running game (the BA running game). Johnson could block well right off the snap, and aside from a few case of the dropsies, he started catching the ball better than he did his first two seasons. Seemed like Johnson was settling in well, and prior to BA’s firing retirement, it appeared that Johnson was well on his way at becoming a dependable tight end and move away from the fullback spot.
New OC Todd Haley’s new offense utilizes the fullback as a much bigger role than previous coordinators’ schemes did for the Steelers. It was rumored back in March that this was going to happen, and with the official move of Johnson to the FB slot rumor has become truth. Ahh the good ol’ days of Dan Kreider. Where art thou? But not so fast my lead blocking lunatics. I wouldn’t expect Haley’s fullback to be a fullback in the traditional sense. Sure, Johnson will be lead blocking out of the backfield and put some stank on that first hit in the hole or crease. But that’s not the only thing he’ll be doing.
In Kreider’s eight seasons with the Steelers the most catches he had in a single season were 18. I have a feeling that Johnson will have more than 18 catches in 2012. And, if he doesn’t, it’s not because Big Ben didn’t throw him the rock. Haley loves to use running backs as receivers coming out of the back field – screen, slant, pitch, it doesn’t matter.
The big question I have for Johnson is – will he be able to block coming out of the backfield. As I stated earlier, he got pretty good locking up defenders when starting from the line of scrimmage, but how will that 260lb (as of last season) frame consistently make it to the hole and hit that blitzing LB so that Redman can get to the 2nd level of the defense? We’ll know more come training camp. I for one feel pretty good about this move. Johnson can stay focused on position and excel at it. Haley’s taking a bit of a risk using Johnson. There were some other mainstay FB’s free agents out there. Salary cap or lack of confidence in the pool of FA’s – not sure why they stuck with Johnson. But, they did and his success will play a large in part in Haley’s overall success in his first year as the Steelers new OC.