Steelers Really Need FB Will Johnson Back For Bengals Game

When Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin ran down his list of injured players Tuesday during his press conference, fullback Will Johnson wasn’t included. While there hasn’t been much good news concerning the Steelers over the course of the last several days, the news that Johnson might just be able to play Monday night is great.

Johnson, who suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason finale, dressed for the season opener against the Tennessee Titans, but did not play as Tomlin decided to keep him sidelined and only use him in case of emergency.

Last year, Johnson saw 366 plays on offense as the Steelers fullback. Sunday, against the Titans, the Steelers used a two back set just once and that play resulted in Isaac Redman fumbling at the goal-line.

Judging by what we saw last year and during the preseason, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley more than likely wants to use 21 (2 RBs/1TE) and 22 (2RB/2TEs) personnel at least 40% of the time during a game. Being down a fullback and two tight ends, three if you include Kelvin Beachum being forced to move to center, in the opener resulted in the Steelers offense having to use their 11 (1RB/1TE/2WRs) personnel grouping on 35 of 53 plays (66%). The result of that was a very poor running game and very shaky pass protection.

Johnson is not only good as a blocker at the fullback position, he also keeps linebackers and safeties honest when he is in the game because he is such a great receiver out of the backfield. If the Steelers can get him back on the field Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals for 40% of their offensive plays, it should help some.

  • dennisdoubleday

    I realize the stats say that the Steelers are about average in games lost to injury, but it just seems that they are snakebit with the concentration of injuries affecting the key positions in their attempt to improve their running game: starting half back, change of pace third down back, big blocking and pass-catching fullback, both of the strong-blocking tight ends, and now the starting center.

  • steeltown

    Yea its getting pretty ridiculous… the Football gods are not smiling in our favor, so to speak

  • steeltown

    If Velasco can hold down the Center position this year, and we get Will Johnson, Heath Miller and Le’Veon Bell back, the Team could show vast improvement. Just hope the OL can get their act together

  • Jonas


  • Shea Fahr

    This is the best article of the day. It is bad enough without Heath but when you remove Will as well, then we witnessed first hand on Sunday how limited the options became. He is a much needed player for the Monday night game indeed.

  • steeltown

    Indeed… and im considering jumping from the Paulson bandwagon

  • Ahmad

    A lot of those 11 personnel plays were in the shotgun and your running plays are very limited in that formation. If you ask me the Steelers ran worse when 2 or more TE’s were on the field so I’d take my chances with the 11 personnel.

  • Mike Sweeney

    don’t go on the IR steel, from the jump

  • Weiss Chad

    We know he wont be able to block you

  • Pete

    Steelers are in a tough spot against the Bengals. Health is so important when you don’t have a lot of depth like the Steelers. The bad juju that they had when Willie Colon was here is still here. Starters dropping like flies. Hope they can win in spite of the injuries but realistically it’s going to be damn hard to do.


    This barrage of injuries has me numb already…the article stated Will…”may” be ready to play.

    At this point I’ll wait to see who they send out there.