Before finally finding a home as the Pittsburgh Steelers starting left tackle, Kelvin Beachum was working on becoming the ultimate Swiss army knife of offensive linemen. Now, it appears as though rookie Wesley Johnson, the Steelers second of two fifth-round draft picks this year, is picking up where Beachum left off.
So far during training camp, Johnson has mostly played at left tackle, left guard and center on the Steelers offensive line in order to maximize the position flexibility that he showed while at Vanderbilt. Johnson, however, has had some growing pains along the way.
As Alex Kozora reported Wednesday evening, Johnson had a rough practice Wednesday afternoon and it was highlighted by him getting beat a few times in pass blocking drills by second-year linebacker Terence Garvin.
Much to his credit, Johnson stayed after practice to work on his first punch as he was spotted by Kozora giving it to the padding on the goal post.
During the Wednesday edition of Steelers Live, former offensive lineman and current radio network sideline reporter Craig Wolfley gave a quick assessment of what he’s observed so far out of Johnson during training camp.
“Wesley Johnson has to understand that being 6-5, 6-6, whatever he is, he’s got to bend the knees and get leverage, and that’s really what’s been holding him back a little bit,” said Wolfey. “He gets overpowered at times, but yet at the same moment, he’s a very smart kid. He doesn’t make mistakes, he works very, very hard.
“This is a work in progress, this is a young man that needs some schooling. He needs to be able to build his ham hock power. He’s got good reach, he’s got decent feet, all of those things.”
Wolfley goes on to say that he thinks Johnson could not only stand to gain a little more weight, but build up his lower body via squats during the offseason. Neither of those two suggestions are too surprising, however, as Johnson weighed just under 300 pounds at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.
When Beachum was a rookie, the Steelers worked him at left tackle and left guard during the preseason and not only did he look bad at both of those positions, he also was flagged several times. Personally, I wondered if he’d even make the 53 man roster out of training that year, but he managed to stick and as a result of a lot of hard work both on and off the field, he looks to be a fixture on the Steelers offensive line for several years to come.
Can Johnson follow the same path?
Like Beachum, Johnson is considered to be a very smart and dedicated player. Now all he needs to do is to get stronger and work on his technique. Johnson will likely get a chance Saturday night in the preseason opener against the New York Giants to play both left tackle and left guard and if he doesn’t have a great showing, remember that Beachum looked every bit of a seventh-round draft pick during his rookie preseason.