Pittsburgh Steelers fullback/tight end Will Johnson doesn’t always get a lot of work on game days, but when he does, it’s usually when the offense has the running game going. Running back Le’Veon Bell’s 204-yard day certainly qualifies as such, and there’s no doubt that the third-year former undrafted player made his mark in that area.
It was, in fact, arguably the best performance of his career, at least as far as run blocking is concerned, even if that’s not saying much. With the prominence of the three receiver set in the offense over the past two years, it’s been difficult for Johnson to get on the field.
He’s taken over the vast majority of snaps as the third tight end this year, however, and he’s responded well, particularly when he’s allowed to get on the move as a lead blocker.
The Steelers used one of those three tight end sets early in the game against the Tennessee Titans, on the third snap of the opening drive, and Johnson’s lead block helped spring Bell for 19 yards.
With Matt Spaeth lined up on the right of the line and Heath Miller on the left, Johnson pulled to the left as the line flowed to the right as Bell followed his tight end and squeezed through the narrow opening between Miller and Johnson, who was able to wall off linebacker Kamerion Wimbley.
It wasn’t really until toward the fourth quarter, however, when Johnson started getting a lot of snaps, and by the end of the game, the Steelers resorted to staying with the three tight end look as they relied on Bell to be the closer, which he did well, with the help of his supporting cast.
On this play, the tight ends lined up on opposite sides relative to the play before, only this time, Johnson did not pull, but rather blocked up to the second level on the left side, picking off linebacker Wesley Woodyard, paving the way for Bell to churn out six yards on a second and four. The next play was the game-winning touchdown from the 12-yard line.
After a four play drive and a punt, Bell finished off the game with seven straight carries and eight in total, this being the first one. The set up was very much like the play before, only instead of cutting it outside, Bell took this one between the tackles. Johnson once again got into Woodyard and helped pave a lane for six yards.
Johnson was back as a pulling tight end on Bell’s next carry, which went for 10 yards behind his lead blocker for 10 yards. He blew the cornerback out of the hole with little resistance on a block set up by putting Miller in motion prior to the snap.