One of the big story lines during spring practices and training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least to me, was the coaching staff’s decision to use fullback Will Johnson as a tight end, having him attend tight end meetings and work with the group during practice.
The idea was that the Steelers would be able to utilize him as a tight end, much in the way that they used David Johnson, which would allow the offense to make greater use of his talents with their plans to use more no huddle.
His playing time declined sharply during his sophomore season in 2013 in comparison to the amount of work that he got in 2012 as a rookie. Some of this, it seemed, was the result of greater use of the no huddle in the latter part of the season.
It seemed that the decision to work Johnson in as a tight end was, of course, for the purpose of getting him on the field even when the Steelers use the no huddle, which they have been doing with greater frequency so far.
But through two games into the 2014 season, the fullback slash tight end has only seen three total snaps on offense.
He’s seen considerably more time than that on special teams, but the Steelers are keeping him off the field, even with injuries at wide receiver and running back.
As a matter of fact, Todd Haley is hardly even using his second tight end, Matt Spaeth, who played just three snaps against the Ravens on Thursday night.
Johnson played one snap. The other 56 offensive snaps of the game went to Justin Brown, who was filling in as the slot receiver for Lance Moore, who has missed the first two regular season games with a groin injury.
The Steelers used a running back on every play, while Heath Miller logged 59 of the team’s 60 snaps, which gives a pretty good indication of just out frequently they have been using the 11 personnel package so far this season.
So the question remains: do the Steelers intend to actually utilize Johnson, and if so, when? They talked about him potentially getting a carry here and there during the last game with Dri Archer out, but it clearly never came to that.
It seemed that the team was making a concerted effort to increase the third-year player’s flexibility because they wanted to be able to take advantage of his skill set, but so far he’s barely been on the field for two percent of the team’s plays.
He’s on pace for 27 snaps. Why bother labeling him a starter?