Steelers Re-sign LB Steven Johnson, Release Fort

The Pittsburgh Steelers have re-signed linebacker Steven Johnson, the team announced a short time ago. Fellow ILB L.J. Fort was released in a corresponding move.

Johnson has bounced on and off the roster since the end of the preseason.

Fort is a surprise cut after a strong preseason. He also had two tackles in Sunday’s opener against the Cleveland Browns. Johnson, who battled through a hamstring injury this year, recorded six tackles in 2016 before breaking his ankle.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • John Noh

    Is Fort eligible for the PS? I lost count on what his status is. Meanwhile, Johnson is the new Bradon Brown-Dukes in terms of getting on and off the roster.

  • Big Joe

    I still don’t understand this move. He either beat him out in camp or he didn’t. I think he did well on ST so unless he has done something wrong off the field or is in some way injured, I don’t see Johnson as an upgrade.

  • Ryan Alderman

    What’s the angle y’all think?

  • D.j. Reynolds

    Fort must have peed in Tomlin’s cornflakes. There is no question he outplayed Johnson last year and in the preseason!

  • John Noh

    The language from the team is weird – “we have terminated LJ Fort”. Seems exceedingly harsh. Usually it’s waived for young players or cut for vets.

  • D.j. Reynolds

    I guess this could explain the cut (along with SJ not having a guaranteed salary now), but seems really risky.

    Fort > Johnson.

  • Dorian James

    Definitely need help with this Alex, I’m very confused as to why they would get rid of LJ fort

  • John Noh

    Also Alex, can you explain how ESPN has the Steelers ranked No. 1 in their power rankings for week 2? Did they even watch the Cleveland game?

  • hoptown

    I’d be really surprised if someone doesn’t claim Fort. Anyone who has scouted this team can see that he can play. I don’t get this.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Haha I was thinking the same thing.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Will be interested to see what details follow this move. Has to be something we don’t know about Fort.

  • stan

    I apparently can’t link it but there was an article on the site this morning. Basically, Johnson is a vested veteran who will cost more and have greater rights if the Steelers had kept him on the roster to start the season, so the team kept Fort instead of Johnson with the intention of re-signing Johnson after week one. I know it seems odd, but it makes sense if the team likes Johnson just a little better than Fort but still trusts Fort to do the job in week 1.

  • Thomas

    When Shazier inevitably gets hurt and Matakevitch inevitably gets a bunch of passes sailed over his head…I am going to curse this move

  • Dshoff

    Alex, what do you think is going on? I’m wondering if Fort did something wrong that we don’t know about yet. I thought he was the better guy in preseason and he seems to be more valuable and did well on special teams last week. Something doesn’t smell right.

  • NickSteelerFan

    He had a great preseason and he’s a very athletic ILB with great ST capabilities. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take the Demarcus Ayers route and sign somewhere else. He will have offers

  • Darth Blount 47

    Kevin Colbert has become that kids toy that you pass by in the middle of the night on the way to the fridge and it scares the living sh** out of you. Even when you think for sure that it’s turned off, it’s apparently not.

    Someone can tell Colbert that he doesn’t actually HAVE to make a roster move EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s okay to take a day or a week or even month, in between trading players and cutting and signing and re-signing them. The league office won’t forget about you, Kev. Promise. Not between peeking in Bryant’s windows and following Deebo around with a cup.

  • Don’t poke the badger

    I also thought Fort was better than Johnson by at least a little. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cheatriots pick him up since they had him before and they had an ILB injury week one. Hopefully he’s still PS eligible and we can sneak him on there.

  • Big Joe

    Agreed. At first I thought maybe Johnson just wasn’t healthy enough coming off his hamstring injury to beat out Fort but perhaps the coaches felt Johnson would have under normal circumstances. “Terminated” though is just not normal language for the organization.

  • Big Joe

    I believe he is still.

  • Ray Istenes

    Don’t get it unless there is an injury or a suspension coming that no one knows about.

    Just don’t get it. He way outplayed Johnson last year and this year.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    “Terminated?” Even the use of this language makes me think the Steelers are taking a hardline stance on something we don’t (yet) know about.

  • Big Joe

    Yeah, had to laugh at that one.

  • Steeler4l1f3

    I’m not of fan of this move. Fort is the only LB that can legitimately back up Shazier and that kind of skill isn’t readily available. WTH?

  • kakello34

    Steelers #1 in ESPN power rankings. Bradford will be a good test this week.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Disappointing. Here must be something more to this story.

  • Pghomer

    So the PS resigned “Steven Johnson” the LB right….not “Stevie Johnson” the WR. lol

  • Michael Mosgrove

    he’s not.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    fort is better than every way than johnson.

  • Big White

    Anyone notice the Steelers used the words “terminated” when referring to Fort? That’s a legal term when businesses are claiming “with cause” for firing someone.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Johnson had 6 tackles and a forced fumble in 6 games on special teams last year.

  • george

    Pen Live has a brief article. Fort’s agent said he wasn’t “terminated” he was waived (for whatever that means). But the article also said if he clears waivers he has PS eligibility.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Not in the NFL.

    You are hereby notified that effective immediately your NFL Player Contract(s) with the
    Club covering the _______________________ football season(s) has (have) been terminated
    for the reason(s) checked below:
    □ You have failed to establish or maintain your excellent physical condition to
    the satisfaction of the Club physician.
    □ You have failed to make full and complete disclosure of your physical or mental
    condition during a physical examination.
    □ In the judgment of the Club, your skill or performance has been unsatisfactory
    as compared with that of other players competing for positions on the Club’s
    □ You have engaged in personal conduct which, in the reasonable judgment of
    the Club, adversely affects or reflects on the Club.
    □ In the Club’s opinion, you are anticipated to make less of a contribution to the
    Club’s ability to compete on the playing field than another player or players
    whom the Club intends to sign or attempts to sign, or already on the roster of
    the Club, and for whom the Club needs Room.

  • Big White

    Yeah, my guess would be PED violation or Substance.

  • John Noh

    I wonder which box (or boxes) got checked. I guess the last box would make the most sense.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah, I’m sure that’s what it is. People are freaking out about the use of the word ‘terminated’ but that’s literally what it is: a contract termination. It doesn’t mean anything especially bad.

  • Dorian James

    I understand the logistics of it I just didn’t think Fort and Johnson were that close performance-wise. Goes to show what I know

  • Terrible Towlie


  • stan

    I’ve never seen the team use that term though. It seems harsh.

  • stan

    I think Johnson is probably a better bet if they need him to play regular downs. I would agree that it doesn’t seem like the two could be all that far apart in value to justify this shell game situation.
    I was actually hoping this move was for Spence instead of Johnson. I thought he was very good his last year in Pittsburgh, better than either of these guys (or Matakevich)

  • Terrible Towlie

    we got him from the Pats*

  • NYCSteelCurtain

    Eh, I think they are basically the same. Johnson is probably a bit better on ST, and that is what he will be most used for.

    Not sooo much of a difference to fret over.

  • Paul Rainey

    It’s ESPN, enough said. They usually don’t make much sense. How about retain Josina Anderson and get rid of Jerome Bettis and Ed Werder. How dumb is that?

  • Matthew Marczi

    They have used it before, though not as commonly. It’s just a synonym for releasing or waiving and I’m sure there’s not intention behind the word choice.

  • nutty32

    …or when teams put someone to death. I’ve not heard from LJ since. Have you?

  • Conserv_58

    Terminated? That’s a word we never hear used when the Steelers release somebody. Apparently since there was no reason given as to why LJ was “terminated” are we to assume that there were mitigating circumstances for the abrupt turn of events?

  • Conserv_58

    The fact that the team decided not to divulge the reason for terminating LJ is what I find somewhat perplexing.

  • francesco

    That’s my guess as well.

  • PaeperCup

    Off field concerns?


    Is it just me or does this all seem just weird?! 😐

  • deuce_seven

    It could be that the team has been informed by the league of a coming suspension for Fort.

  • falconsaftey43

    Unless there is an injury, they never give a reason, they just release them. Look at when they first cut Johnson,

    “To make room on the team’s 53-man roster, the Steelers released linebacker Steven Johnson.”

    “To make room on the roster for Johnson the team terminated the contract of linebacker L.J. Fort.”

    It is the same thing.

  • falconsaftey43

    Haha, this made spit out food

  • Matthew Marczi

    To be fair, this hasn’t happened since the 1982 lockout with replacement players, so it’s understandable that people might not remember this sort of thing taking place. I remember when the Browns tried to terminate one of their running backs, the beheading took three ax swings. Ugly.

  • Rotten Sircus

    Why did they let Fort go ? Was it injury related ??

  • Matthew Marczi


  • Matthew Marczi

    I don’t think the term has any kind of official designation or intention behind it. It’s just a synonym for being waived or released.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Or they just wanted to sign Johnson for reasons I’ve already explained.

  • AndyR34

    Don’t be hard on yourself…most of us don’t know any more. 😏

  • LucasY59

    More like Ross Ventrone, BBD never made a 53 man roster

  • Joseph Shaw

    He was terminated…with extreme prejudice.

  • LucasY59

    Fort to the PS? it couldve been the plan from the start, not gonna guarantee SJ’s veteran salary so keep LJ through week 1 (which gives Fort a little extra $) and then swap him and Steven out after the 1st game, gives them 5 ILBs that are roster worthy but only uses 4 spots on the 53, better deal for LJ than just going straight to the PS after the cutdown from 90, and Johnson should be ok with it also since he is collecting a game check (until they need a roster spot for a different position?) Moats could also factor into this a little since he is somewhat position versatile (or was earlier in his career)

  • RickM

    Congrats on calling it.

  • Reezy

    lol damn.

  • John

    Termination “for cause” typically requires notice by the invoking contract party and a reasonable time frame within which to “cure” the cited cause outright or make a reasonable effort to cure before the cited cure is deemed incurable. Termination “for convenience” can be for a bad hair day but still typically requires notice. Either way the terminated party can at least try but not necessarily expect to recover what it’s spent as of termination and as a direct result of the termination. “Case by case” has been my experience.

    Appendix H as Matthew posts straddles the fence…in my blinkered view…

  • John Pennington

    Why didnt anyone ask TOMLIN about why Fort was let go at the press conference. It seems when it comes to asking questions that matter no one ask the question in hand.So will someone standup and find out why Fort was let go for a player they know has hamstring problems not that long ago.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Because it was not announced until later in the day. It was merely a report from a non-Steelers journalist. Of course his report ended up being accurate, but that’s really not something a journalist with credentials would be asking about until there is something substantive.

  • steelmann58

    i kind of believe that Johnson is a good ST player but i also thought Fort was the better cover guy as an ILB. but it kinda confusing about this move at this point unless they like Johnson as the better player

  • B717

    Is it just me or does the word terminated seem extreme? Did he do something stupid that we don’t know about?

  • John Phillips

    Tomlin at “his” best.

  • John Phillips

    Yeah we do know about Tomlins paranoia.

  • John Phillips

    More than the head coach.

  • Geoffrey Benedict

    Fort plays great in preseason, makes rosters, then sucks. We took longer to do this last year and that was the mistake. Fort isn’t what he looks like in preseason.

  • RMSteeler

    If anything should be terminated, it should be penalties.

  • Thanks for sharing this letter. Now I understand this more.

  • cencalsteeler

    Attitude after the game.

  • Steve

    Almost as bad as “Coach Arians has decided to retire”. Then unretires the following week.

  • pittsburghjoe

    I just dont understand this. Can anyone guess the motive?

  • Steeler Nation!

    Agree with this. He seemed to be the most athletic ILB we had after Shazier.

  • Rocksolid20

    Hightower down, Patriots may show an interest ?

  • Robert Tamburo

    I believe fort IS practice squad eligible

  • Robert Tamburo

    Then why in the past for other players did they always use the word waved?

  • Rick Tilves

    I am Confused. I read earlier that the Steelers cut Galambos from Practice Squad in favor of Fort. How is he eligible when he is not a Rookie or second year player ? So, now I guess Johnson is back on 53 man squad ?

  • Matthew Marczi

    It hasn’t been an ‘always’ thing. If you google “Steelers terminate” you’re going to get results.

  • Robert Tamburo

    Thanks Matthew, you were correct the whole time. Sorry for going with the herd on “terminate” verbiage. Looks like Colbert/Khan may have long-since had this rotation of ILBs planned.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah, and in a way it does make sense. Instead of settling for just Fort and then Galambos on the practice squad, you can have Fort on the squad plus Steven Johnson, who is already a proven commodity on special teams. If a need arises at ILB, they could always call him up. Plus he’ll still be with the team keeping up with everything in the meeting rooms.

  • Robert Tamburo

    Yup. Now you can both still have all 5 ILBs you originally wanted but save money on one being on PS plus save money if and when you need to cut Steven Johnson again. This looks planned from the start, before the 90 to 53 cut-down. I’m not so sure coach Tomlin had much of anything to do with this, but I bet Omar Khan and Kevin Colbert’s fingerprints are all over this from the start.