By Matthew Marczi
Player: David Johnson
Position: Tight End
Experience: 5 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2013 Salary Cap Hit: $665,000
2013 Season Breakdown: The 2013 season was a brief one for fifth-year tight end/fullback David Johnson, who had his year ended prematurely after suffering a season-ending wrist injury in the fifth game of the year against the New York Jets.
Johnson missed the entirety of the 2012 season after suffering an ACL tear in the preseason opener last season, and his rehabilitation was a long one. He required some type of clean-up procedure between minicamps and training camp this year, which prolonged his eventual recovery.
In the limited snaps that he did take, however, he performed well, primarily as an in-line blocking tight end, now that the Steelers have—yet rarely use—a proper fullback in Will Johnson, though he did also play on the move at times.
The elder Johnson had a particularly excellent game in London against the Minnesota Vikings, making his first start of the year and playing a total of 24 snaps. His run blocking in particular during that contest was a boost to the team’s efforts in what was Le’Veon Bell’s first career game.
I wrote previously about his work in the blocking department during that game when it happened, which can be revisited here.
In addition to his blocking, Johnson also managed to fare well as a receiver in highly limited opportunities, catching four of six passes in his direction for a total of 70 yards, 32 of which came after the catch. While that will never be a primary feature of his game, he did show that he needs to be accounted for.
Unfortunately, Johnson suffered that season-ending wrist injury on just his second snap into the fifth game of the year, prematurely ending his season and putting the Steelers in a bind at the tight end position.
Free Agency Outlook: As it looks right now, Johnson is the team’s best option as a third tight end. The Steelers already have Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth under contract as their top two tight ends. Meanwhile, the 2012 seventh-round draft pick David Paulson continued to show that he is a liability as a blocker, and wasn’t even overly reliable as a receiver, despite hauling in a 30-yard pass on a fake punt late in the season.
Though Paulson is already under contract, I would suspect that the team would like to bring Johnson back to compete for the third tight end spot. They may even carry four, as they did this past season. Johnson also serves as the backup at the fullback position. Provided that he will be healthy, I see no reason to suspect that Johnson won’t be re-signed, barring a moderately high draft pick at the position.
Other Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Ryan Clark - Unrestricted Free Agent
Emmanuel Sanders - Unrestricted Free Agent
Brett Keisel - Unrestricted Free Agent
Jerricho Cotchery - Unrestricted Free Agent
Ziggy Hood - Unrestricted Free Agent
Jason Worilds - Unrestricted Free Agent