By Matthew Marczi
With the Pittsburgh Steelers spending the majority of the game with three wide receivers on the field, there wasn’t exactly ample opportunity for fullback Will Johnson to have much impact on the game.
In fact, like Matt Spaeth, in his first game of the season, the majority of snaps for the fullback and backup tight ends came early in the game—predominantly on the second drive—before the no-huddle took over.
It simply continues a trend that has run the length of the season of the fullback more or less being taken out of the offense. With it being so widely reported during training camp how great Johnson was in pass-catching drills, we figured that his number of targets would be on the up-tick this season.
Instead, he averages less than one-fifth of the team’s offensive snaps per game, and has only been targeted seven times this season, with six receptions. The one miss would have been a touchdown at the end of the Ravens game.
Still, overall Johnson certainly hasn’t been anything special this year as a lead blocker, even considering his limited snaps, which is somewhat disappointing, but he did have a fine game against the Miami Dolphins.
His best play of the day came early, on the second play of the Steelers’ second drive. On a run off the left edge, Johnson followed a pulling David DeCastro, who chipped Olivier Vernon before leaving him for Johnson to block. The two cleared an alley for Le’Veon Bell that went for nine yards.
He saved center Cody Wallace some added embarrassment on the following play, as Wallace was beaten by Paul Soliai off the snap. Johnson, however, picked him up, and again with DeCastro sealed the left side for a lane that allowed Bell to spin around a defender for six yards.
Finally, after all the blocking work, Ben Roethlisberger finally threw him a bone—literally threw—by heaving a pass his way in the third quarter. It wasn’t an easy one either, as he had to come back to it and dive for it. But when you only get one target every other game, you tend to want to make the ones you do get count as much as possible.
If Johnson can continue to play to the level that he had in this past game, then he would be deserving of more playing time—although that would be difficult to accomplish in the no-huddle offense.