Earlier this week, I broke down some examples of the struggles of Pittsburgh Steelers rookie offensive lineman Wesley Johnson in pass protection during the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.
Johnson, primarily a tackle in college with a smattering of experience at all other positions on the line, was drafted in the fifth round because of his versatility, but only got an opportunity to play center during the preseason.
The final preseason game was a rough one for Johnson in pass protection, as he played every snap of the game and gave up two sacks, was called for a hold, and nearly snapped the ball over the quarterback’s head on at least one occasion.
But it wasn’t all bad. As a matter of fact, he had a pretty successful night blocking in the running game. And the truth is that, overall, he played well this preseason, even with his struggles in pass protection in the finale.
To balance out the breaking down of his pass protection struggles, here’s a look at some of his work in the running game.
After a 15-yard end around by Markus Wheaton, followed by a six-yard run from Dri Archer, the Steelers found themselves on the 36-yard line on second and four on their opening drive. Will Johnson got his sole carry of the preseason on this play, which was a six-yard run off right guard for a first down.
On the carry, Wesley Johnson worked a combination block, first doubling down on defensive tackle Colin Cole with Ramon Foster before peeling off to block linebacker D.J. Smith. While he had trouble sticking to Smith, the disruption led to a wide open hole for the other Johnson to run through.
Pittsburgh’s first possession ended just past midfield on a failed fourth-down conversion attempt with LeGarrette Blount in the backfield. The failure to convert was largely due to the missed block on the edge by the tight end, however. The blocking up the middle was solid, with Johnson working with David DeCastro on the tackle before peeling off to block the linebacker Smith again.
Early in the second quarter, Le’Veon Bell got one of his few carries of the game on first and 10 from the 19, which he was able to take up the middle for six yards. Johnson blocked Kawann Short on his own, and while he was unable to get any push, he was able to turn the defensive tackle and allow Bell to run behind him.
Later in the game, on the opening drive of the second half, Johnson caught the defensive tackle playing high off the snap and was able to get into his chest, pushing him to the side for a five-yard run from Josh Harris. Admittedly, Johnson was holding on the play, reaching his right arm around the defender’s back, but it was not called.