By Matthew Marczi
Pittsburgh Steelers fullback Will Johnson played his most snaps of the season, and his highest percentage of the team’s total snaps, in the their most recent victory over the Baltimore Ravens. It also just so happened to be the team’s best game on the ground through the first six games of the season. That is not necessarily a meaningful correlation, however.
In actuality, the Steelers ended up spoiling some of Johnson’s better blocks of the evening with the failed blocks of others preventing the backs from reaching the hole that he had cleared, and this early running play with Le’Veon Bell is a fine example of that, even though Bell turned it into a solid gain on his own.
Will Johnson lays down a crisp, solid block here on Ravens inside linebacker Jameel McClain, a block that should have been good enough for Bell to trail behind for a nice gain. However, because Ramon Foster could not control Arthur Jones and Haloti Ngata shaded toward that gap, Bell was forced to abandon Plan A.
Instead, he followed behind David DeCastro’s second-effort block after the hole finally opened up. Regardless of what happened behind him, however, Johnson did his job just fine on this particular play.
Johnson is also given a key role in the Wildcat package, and serves as a lead blocker on just about every one of them. I would expect that to continue if Todd Haley breaks it out every so often.
On this occasion, the Steelers are set up in third and short, in part because Johnson failed to lock down on a block the play before to help spring Antonio Brown on a handoff out of the Wildcat.
This time, with Bell carrying, the play is designed to go off the left edge, with DeCastro pulling and Johnson the lead blocker. Johnson gets his block down on McClain, but not so tight that the linebacker cannot escape.
The fact that Ben Roethlisberger is left on a defensive back, however, is the reason that this play does not go for more, because Bell would have easily been able to escape McClain without Jimmy Smith coming in to make the tackle.
This was, however, perhaps Johnson’s best block of the night, as he turns linebacker Daryl Smith out of the hole, through which Bell scampers for nine yards. Smith tries in vain to angle around him, but Johnson pushes him out of harm’s way.