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Steelers Should Consider Using FB Will Johnson More In The Passing Game


Heading into the 2013 season, I was pretty sure that Pittsburgh Steelers fullback Will Johnson would be used more in the passing game after registering 15 catches for 137 yards last season. That of course hasn’t happened as Johnson now heads into the Sunday game at Heinz Field against the Detroit Lions with a mere three catches for seven yards on five targets.

Johnson has played a total of 155 snaps so far this season with 47 of them coming on pass plays. On only four of those pass play was he asked to block, according to Pro Football Focus.

It’s not as if Johnson cant catch or run routes, either, as he his a former wide receiver, turned tight end, turned fullback. He showed last season that he can be a weapon in the passing game if used correctly as he averaged 9.1 yards per catch. If the Steelers refuse to use him in the passing game moving forward, then the offense is suffering having him on the field as a result.

It’s too late in the season now for Johnson to hit the 20 plus catch mark, but it’s not too late for him to at least come close to the 15 receptions he had last season. For God’s sake, even New York Giants fullback John Conner has more catches than Johnson does this season and he’s only been on the field for 28 pass plays.

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About Dave Bryan

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

    Umm… YES

  • JAMESH

    I think we, except for Todd, have all been in agreement on this for over a year now.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I think it has more to do with us being behind for most of the season so he isn’t out there on running plays because we are not running the ball.

  • SteelersDepot

    A big portion of his snaps have come with games close.

  • Eric

    I have called for the use of Will Johnson several times this season including a post earlier this AM

  • Chris Wilkes

    I never thought Will Johnson was as good a player as he was talked up during the offseason. It’s really no comparison, but he kinda reminds me of Mike Wallace. Just seems like a great athlete, good football player. Besides, we’re not great at running the ball, and we’re usually behind by 10 or more points, so having a FB out there is a luxury we can’t afford.

  • whisn

    100% agree, his under use, well i say under use, he’s hardly been used at all, is completely mind-boggling. This guy is a good pass catcher and provides a good miss match. I seem to recall them saying he was an important part of the offense?

    Crazy!

  • Jeff

    I’ve been out of the loop all week, who is expected to miss the game from the Steelers? Is woodley expected to play?

  • SteelersDepot

    Um, what about when he is on the field? Nobody is suggesting that he play 55 snaps a game. Also, of course he is not going to be on the field late in games when behind. I kind of thought that was obvious.

  • whisn

    I’m not sure if he’s been given enough opportunity for the coaches or us to access if he’s any good or not?

  • steeltown

    Sharmarko is out…I think everyone else should be good to go except maybe Ramon Foster, he’s no longer wearing a walking boot but he’s not practicing either

    Keisel, Woodley and Velasco also didn’t practice yesterday but it sounds like they may be able to participate today or tomorrow

  • Matt Manzo

    This another reason to point the finger at coaching! He shoulda been used more from the get go. I’m not understanding why, with our OL problems we haven’t asked the fb to do more

  • Chris Wilkes

    We’re getting outscored 64-19 in the 1st quarter.

  • Jeff

    Thanks steel

  • Chris Wilkes

    Opportunity like Adams had at LT, or Mesko as the punter?

  • Chris Wilkes

    I think you answered your own question. The O-line IS the problem.

  • cencalsteeler

    I recall him having two nice catch and go’s earlier in the year and they netted some nice gains…….and then things just went stagnant for him.
    Any thoughts on moving him to TE and Dwyer to FB for the time being? You do that and you now have multiple threats on offense and can open up the playbook a little more. Also, more options for Ben to get rid of the ball faster. (Stafford 10 sacks all season with an avg. release time of 2.5 seconds. This isn’t rocket science on what needs to be done here to help correct some of our offensive problems).

  • MP34

    The use of the fullback is one of the reasons I liked the addition of Haley. And I mean this type of modern fullback, a pass catching, piledriving blocking type who never runs the ball. An H-Back in Fullbacks clothing. Just a different wrinkle than a plodding TE who can’t get low or run after the catch in a one-back set.
    Anyways, I agree. He should be used more. One question: Dave, has there been any drop off in Johnson’s blocking effectiveness? While the line has been a mess, I’ve noticed a few missed blocks, and was wondering if that’s why he isn’t used at the goal line, etc?

  • steeltown

    Its worth trying IMO

    But, also I cant tell you how many times during a game i’m yelling at Ben to get rid of the ball, its not all lack of quality OL play or lack of separation by the WRs as the mid-week breakdowns usually show Ben has open WRs, RBs and TEs quite often

  • cencalsteeler

    Usually, a qb should be counting to himself when the ball is hiked. The same goes for the receiver. The ball comes out on “3″ and the receiver turns to look for the ball on his count of “3″. It’s simple timing patterns which sets a rhythm for the offense. Ben throws that out the window a lot and the backyard games begin. That has to drive Haley nuts, because you and I see how these receivers are open during that window by design. We can talk about that until we’re blue in the face, but that comes with Bens style. The unfortunate thing is, we saw the success it created last year up until he got hurt. Now, it looks like he has reverted back to his old ways. The Rooney’s had the right idea by bringing in Haley to teach Ben to get rid of the ball quicker, but sometimes you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

  • AndyR34

    Wa-a-ay off base…it’s not coaching…it’s Ben! He refuses to throw short, so unless WJ is on a fly pattern, you can forget about him getting the ball. He was catching the ball last year when the Steelers ran Haley’s offense. Now that they are back to running Ben’s offense, bye bye WJ. I will also add that Bell may be ‘taking’ some of Johnson’s opportunities.

  • Matt Manzo

    True. I wasn’t thinking about Bell taking away reps. I just think WJ could get more snaps like Adams is, to help the protection and out of that he would see more chances to catch a few.

  • Riverstko

    No, the tight end is more of a threat in this new era of football. Maybe because it takes the fullback longer to get to the line of scrimmage where the TE is set and able to make positive yards. And if its a screen id rather throw to a RB. Will is a good player,maybe play him on the line as a tight end. I remember when every team in the NFL had fullbacks but now they barely exist.

  • Bob Graff

    Hold on wait a minute . How are we gonna get him the ball when we gotta give it to Sanders for another bubble screen. Shoot the last time he almost got out of the backfield. We wouldn’t want to mess any of that chemistry up. And don’t forget we haven’t run it up the middle for no gain nearly enough don’t try and mess with the fine tuned balance of an offense. There’s been a whole bunch of professional types that have been working mighty hard on keeping this explosive offense humming along the way it has.Shoot wouldn’t daddy be proud, why don’t we go out and hire JR. to run that darn defense.

  • alex

    and given that sad consistency, maybe, just maybe that person who calls himself offensive coordinator…

    is he still with the team?!

    maybe he should think out of the box and use a FB out in the flat…maybe that would spread a defense horizonally so we could go vertical…both long and up the gut…

    im just sayin’!

  • johnhoien

    I hate when I feel smarter than a play caller :/

  • steeltown

    Agreed. It’s too late to change Ben and honestly I don’t want him to change, will his style of play shorten his career, most likely BUT its been a fun ride

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