November 6, 2011; Pittsburgh,PA, USA: Pittsburgh Steelers tight end David Johnson (85) runs after a pass reception against Baltimore Ravens safeties Ladarius Webb (bottom) and Ed Reed (20) during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE
Things looked bad enough for David Johnson after he crumpled to the turf with a torn ACL during Pittsburgh preseason opener last year. The only thing that made Johnson’s injury worse was the fact that his replacement, Will Johnson, shined during preseason play and rapidly improved as the season progressed.
With Will’s emergence, the fourth-year H-back was considered by many to be expendable after training camp and the preseason ended this year. David however fought back from his injury, was activated off of the PUP list, and played well enough for the Steelers to earn a backup job on the 53-man roster.
It was definitely a positive that the Steelers kept “D.J.” on the roster for depth purposes, and but it looks like the veteran might have to step up and play if Pittsburgh’s starting fullback is unable to recover from his current hamstring injury to play on Sunday versus Tennessee. Will was limited in practice for the second straight day according to Scott Brown of ESPN.com, and David will be the player who steps in at fullback if Will is unable to suit up for this weekend’s game.
Luckily for the Steelers, Johnson at least has some starting experience under his belt. Overall, David started 24 games during his first three seasons in the league, including all 16 during the 2011 regular season. I would be remiss if I didn’t add that Johnson has not played in a regular season game since the 2011 season finale against Cleveland though.
I just hope that there is not much of a drop-off in play at the fullback position if the Steelers’ backup is pressed into duty. Pittsburgh will need a strong game from “D.J.,” particularly in the red zone, if they wish to win against Tennessee in the event that their starting fullback’s hamstring keeps him sidelined.
If that scenario occurs, then David will have a tremendous chance to prove to the coaching staff that he will be worth keeping around once Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, and the guy in front of him at fullback return to the lineup.
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