Former Steelers WR and first-round pick Charles Johnson dies at age 50

Wide receiver Charles Johnson #81 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Wide receiver Charles Johnson #81 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /

Steelers Nation received some sad news on Wednesday morning that former first-round pick Charles Johnson had passed away. 

Steelers fans and the media were gutted on June 20th when they heard of the passing of former wide receiver, Charles Johnson. Johnson’s death was announced by his employer in Wake Forest, South Carolina. He was just 50 years old. The cause of his death is unknown at this time.

Johnson was a former first-round pick (17th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers back in the 1994 NFL Draft. While he didn’t quite live up to lofty expectations as a high draft choice, Johnson grew into a respectable NFL wide receiver who was able to stick around in the league for 9 seasons.

Johnson got off to a relatively quick start for the Steelers in his rookie season — earning 577 yards and 3 touchdowns in a run-heavy offense. In his third season in 1996, Johnson earned the only 1,000-yard season of his career as he hauled in 60 passes for 1,008 yards and 3 touchdowns.

The former first-round pick had another fairly successful season in Pittsburgh in 1998 when he recorded 815 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. This was his final season with the team.

After five seasons with the Steelers, Johnson played two years with the Philadelphia Eagles from 199 to 2000. He then briefly joined the New England Patriots in 2001 where he won a Super Bowl before finishing his career in 2002 with the Buffalo Bills.

During his playing career in Pittsburgh, Johnson was part of a team that helped the Steelers to four 10+ win seasons in his five years with the team. In his second year, Pittsburgh lost the Super Bowl to the Dallas Cowboys — a game in which he did not play. Johnson would later earn his ring in New England, however.

At the end of his 9 years in the league, Johnson had recorded 354 receptions on 659 targets for 4,606 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns, via Pro Football Reference.

Johnson grew up in San Bernardino California. He spent the last several years as an assistant athletic director at Heritage High School, according to

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Charles Johnson isn’t going to be listed with the great Pittsburgh Steelers players of his era, but none of that matters in a time like this. His death comes way too soon. Fans and the NFL media share their memories and mourn the loss of Johnson on social media.