Johnson Versus Johnson Training Camp Battle Appears To Be On The Horizon

Steelers David Johnson Versus Will JohnsonThe Pittsburgh Steelers have completed their first two OTA practices of the 2012 season and quite a good bit of information has come out since the team has reassembled this week in Pittsburgh. The past few days we received confirmation on what we already knew heading into the week and that is that there are two fullbacks on the roster in the form of David Johnson and Will Johnson. Running back Jonathan Dwyer let us know this on our podcast just prior to this week and fellow running back Isaac Redman confirmed it to the media on Wednesday.

While training camp is still a good two months away from getting underway, it certainly seems that one of the battles setting up this far out is Johnson versus Johnson. David was a restricted free agent this offseason after his rookie contract was up and has since been tendered and re-signed. He was drafted in the 7th round of the 2009 draft and has played tight end, h-back and fullback for the Steelers over that span of time. He also has played on some special teams units in addition.

In three years David has caught 18 passes for 146 yards during the regular season to go along with 1 touchdown, which he scored last season against the Tennessee Titans. He also has nearly 870 offensive snaps under his belt over the course of the last three seasons that consist of a few great blocks to go along with a few missed blocks and assignments. While David is far from being a Pro Bowl caliber fullback type, and even farther away from being a Pro Bowl tight end, he did have four or five good cumulative games last season in the blocking department. He will never be the type of pass receiving option to run away from linebackers as either a fullback or a tight end and he is certainly not regarded as a special demon.

The other Johnson fullback currently attending running back meetings is Will, the 6 foot 2 converted WVU wide receiver who caught the eye of head coach Mike Tomlin at the Mountaineers pro day prior to the draft. This Johnson went undrafted in 2011 and was pretty much lost in laundry thanks to lockout last off-season. He worked three jobs this past year and continued to train in hopes of impressing scouts and coaches alike when he showed up at the aforementioned pro day back in March.

Although not part of the 2012 draft class, Will put up 225 pounds 30 times on the bench, which was more than anyone at that pro day, and one scout reportedly timed him at an unofficial 4.49 during his 40 yard dash. He played under the recently deceased Bill Stewart while at Morgantown, where he reportedly grew into his frame his final few seasons there. Stewart of course was responsible for giving Tomlin his first college coaching job many moons ago, so it would not be surprising to find out that Tomlin had already heard about Will prior to this past March.

The college tape of Will shows smooth route running and he plays fast on tape out of the backfield in addition. The only real question about him is if he can handle blocking at the NFL level. He played in 45 college games during his career at WVU and recorded 25 catches for 249 yards to go along with 4 touchdowns. Another pending question will be his ability to play on special teams. He is credited with 5 total tackles during his college career, 2 of which were solo.

While more and more tidbits continue to emerge as to what we can expect the new offense of Todd Haley to look like, it appears on the surface that a fullback could be included in certain packages. The only other player on the roster that appears to meet the criteria of a true fullback is Jamie McCoy, who spent a good part of the 2011 season on the Steelers practice squad. We have yet to hear the name of McCoy mentioned though in any of the fullback talk this off-season, so it figures that it could possibly come down to a Johnson versus Johnson training camp battle, if indeed the idea is to keep one of the two.

We will revisit this potential battle this closer to training camp getting underway as quite a bit can happen in the way of roster moves between now and then. If another true fullback type is added, hopefully his last name is not Johnson as well. I wonder if Ben Roethlisberger still thinks the team doesn\’t need a fullback.

  • Rsinclair34

    i think will johnson will beat out david johnson for the fullback roll because will is a strong and fast runner and can also catch the ball and block.

  • Alburghto

    you mean 2011 and 2012 on Will Johnson

  • John A Stewart


  • Westcoast0201


  • Jprankster2005

    If there going to have a FB I hope Will wins the job he’s alot cheaper and probably better…… I also would like to see Dwyer as FB and see what he could do……. But that’s not my call

  • SteelerDave

    My bet is on Will. He has much more upside and overall strength and speed. Will should be able to learn to block at this level including picking up blitzes. Yes, the Dan Kreider days are long gone but if Will shows capable of blocking, he seems to be much more of receiving threat than David and with Haley’s offense I think that becomes the key.

  • SteelerDave

    I totally agree, Dwyer in a FB role could be an awesome thing for this offense. I suspect that exact thought is being entertained by the Steelers.

  • It’s slim pickings out there. Tom Coughlin was asked about the FB position about a year or so ago. He said that it is hard to find a good, true FB, because most of the college programs have abandoned the position, in favor of an H-back.

  • Asmitty56

    The Steelers will not have or use a traditional FB this year. DJ is not exactly a “traditional” FB, he isn’t an outstanding blocker but gets the job done. Honestly it feels like their wasting a roster spot for an average blocking FB with no other skill sets. Will Johnson while he is a bit smaller, his blocking level probably isn’t much worst than DJ’s, and with him being more athletic he is more likely to be in position to make a blocker quicker than what DJ would. Not to mention with Will Johnson they can line up in a power run formation and still have the ability to have a receiving threat by all 5 players on the field, got to love that flexibility. And we all know Haley loves to have that receiving threat out of the backfield.

    If you want a power run blocking FB, you miles well put Legursky at FB.

  • Asmitty56

    That train has already left the station. Dwyer struggles as a blocking RB as it is. i wish people would stop pinning bigger RB as a FB. It failed with Frank Summers and it would fail with Dwyer as well. Let the guy run the ball.

  • SteelSpine

    I agree. Plenty of veteren blocking FBs available every year for cheap for whoever wants one. Some are cut, others are alloowed to go elsewhere because are not as young. The fact the Steelers havent wanted a true blocking FB the past handful of years (our last true FB was allowed to to go to Green Bay), tells you they just dont want one, for whatever reason they just never feel they need any.

  • SteelSpine

    That’s why get a veteren good FB for cheap, not a rookie. Remember Tim Spencer (our FB who blocked for Bettis), etc.