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Mike Tomlin Has Seen A Dramatic Improvement In TE/FB David Johnson


The return of Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller to the lineup Sunday night resulted in a huge reduction in playing time for second-year tight end David Paulson and it’s likely to get even lower now moving forward.

Paulson struggled quite a bit in the blocking department in the first two games of the season and now he will be relegated to mostly special teams work moving forward.

The return of Miller also resulted in more playing time for tight end/fullback David Johnson, who now appears to be fully recovered from the knee injury that he suffered last year during the preseason. Johnson even figured into the passing game Sunday night in the loss to the Chicago Bears as he caught two passes for 51 yards.

“I like some of the things he’s doing both in the running game and in the passing game,” Tomlin said Tuesday of Johnson during his press conference. “Much like Heath Miller, he’s working his way back from an ACL and I see a dramatic improvement in him physically week-to-week, and look forward to continued improvement in what he’s doing both physically and mentally.”

With Miller now back, we are starting to see more two tight end personnel groupings on the field and would have likely seen even more Sunday night had the Bears not jumped out to such a big lead.

The Steelers still won’t get injured tight end Matt Spaeth back for several more weeks, but Johnson should be an adequate compliment to Miller, especially when it comes to the running game, until he returns.

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Ahmad

    DJ really did a good job in the blocking department and even caught the Bears defense by surprise with two pretty catches.

  • steeltown

    I like the idea of Miller and D.Johnson as the starters moving forward

  • chris ward

    David Johnson was a nice surprise on Sunday night.

  • Mike Carroll

    Nice story for David Johnson. Hope he keeps up the good work.

    Once Spaeth gets back it looks like they could actually put 3 TEs on field at the same time in limited situations, with their play having a net positive effect. That’s a long ways from two weeks ago.

  • steeltown

    It was said he slimmed down 10lbs during his rehabilitation.. he’s still a beast around 255-260lbs but I think he has a little more wiggle in him

  • cencalsteeler

    Have always pulled for DJ. He’s a great compliment to Heath and Will.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I think its probably more than that, he looked more of, vernon davis- like body weight. More muscular.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    I always liked DJ, and I was excited all offseason to see how the Steelers would use him. I think he was lucky because of the injuries, and especially the way the Steelers have been evaluating talent lately, but I bet when/if Spaeth comes back that DJ has a good chance of taking Paulson’s job.

  • Eric

    Town, yesterday you had Johnson getting cut. Whats up?

  • steeltown

    I mentioned DJ getting cut when Spaeth returns.. at that point Miller and Spaeth will be #1 and #2.., then its a toss up between Paulson and DJ as #3, I’d keep DJ but something tells me the coaching staff keeps Paulson

  • dgh57

    I hope when all is said and done our 3 TEs are Miller, Spaeth, and DJ. DJ just needs some more chances in the passing game to hone his skills there and further prove he’s our #3 TE. DJ can also back up W. Johnson at FB which is another positive for him over Paulson. It seems Paulson can’t block if his life depended on it so STs is where he belongs as he’ll be available in case of another injury.

  • Dan

    At that size 10lbs is nothing. I’m sure he fluctuates more than that on a daily basis. One trip to the buffet, sauna or toilet (aka water closet) is going to give him a 10 pound swing. But very good to see him back on the field. He was great in last year’s training camp and I’ve really been hoping he’d return strong.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I had D. Johnson being the odd man out as well. Paulson is such a horrible blocker and his hands are inconsistent. He pretty much squandered his opportunities while Heath was out. What may help Paulson is that he plays special teams but DJ has looked pretty good. I’d be happy now with TE depth of Miller, Spaeth, and DJ but I have a feeling Paulson will probably be kept.

  • Eric

    I had not thought about special teams, but DJ, as a better TE and a backup FB, seems to add more value to the team than a Special teams player. I would not think Paulson is so much better at special teams than DJ, that the decision would hinge on that basis.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I hope not DJ seems much improved.

  • MP34

    I wonder if there is any scenario that sees Paulson facing the waiver wire? A tight end who can’t block is called a 5th receiver.

  • steeltown

    I agree about DJs versatility.. I guess we’ll see what happens over the next 4-5weeks and see if DJ stays healthy and continues to contribute. At this point, I’d have no issue with them keeping DJ over Paulson and then drafting another young TE prospect in the next draft.

  • Bilgewater D

    DJ made some nice catches. I think it caught the Bears off guard. It gives other teams things to ponder. Tee hee.

  • Eric

    I wanted to know why you think the coaches see it differently than you and me and everyone else?

  • steeltown

    Do you mean in regard to Paulson?
    Im thinking they’ll be stubborn and want to keep Paulson, they seem to like him. He’s still young and he is a bright kid, I could see them keeping him in hopes that he someday turns the corner. Plus once they get Spaeth back who is known for his blocking, not pass catching I think they might choose to keep Paulson being that he excels at pass catching. Not to mention he’s signed through 2015 and is cheaper on an annual basis in comparison to DJ…

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