The Pittsburgh Steelers have recently concluded their offseason schedule, complete with nine OTA practices and the three-day minicamp, and are currently off for about five weeks before they re-emerge in Latrobe for the start of training camp.
Not much is expected to happen between now and then as far as new goes regarding the team. Ideally, the players will simply be focused on getting in the best possible shape heading for the long haul that begins with training camp and concludes, hopefully, with a deep postseason run.
That means that the roster heading into camp should just about be set, so now during the dead time it’s worth taking a dip back into the positional depth charts to see where we stand following the offseason reports, continuing with the fullback position.
It’s not often that it makes much sense to list the fullback position as a distinct group of players in their own right, not just for the Steelers, but for today’s NFL, where few teams employ a true fullback, and even fewer do so with any kind of meaningful frequency.
The fact of the matter is, however, that the Steelers do have two fullbacks that they are bringing into camp with them for this year, and as long as the pair remains intact, it’s worth viewing the fullback position in isolation from either the running backs or the tight ends.
Will Johnson: Johnson is the incumbent at the position, having been the starter, and really only meaningful contender, at fullback over the course of the past three seasons after stumbling into the job in his first season.
Coming to Pittsburgh by way of West Virginia, Johnson went undrafted after he exited college, and failed to sign with any team for the entire year, which was a prospect rendered extremely difficult by the fact that there were labor issues at the time preventing teams from signing free agents until the Collective Bargaining Agreement had been settled.
It wasn’t until the Steelers saw him work out at his alma mater’s Pro Day the following year that he finally hooked on with a team, but he has been here since, and was signed to a restricted free agent tender this offseason.
Johnson has come into his own over the course of the past three seasons, despite seeing little playing time. His run blocking in particular has emerged over the course of the 2014 season, although other facets of his game, such as his pass catching ability, have as of yet been under-utilized.
Roosevelt Nix: It would be highly unlikely for anybody to unseat Johnson from his position, which is not even particularly significant any longer in this offense, but that won’t stop Nix from trying.
A college linebacker attempting to make a position switch, he was originally signed last year as an undrafted free agent by the Falcons, who also tried him at fullback before releasing him. The Steelers initially brought him in as an inside linebacker, but due to the depth at the position and his stature, they figured he would have a better shot of making the roster at fullback. Training camp, with the pads on, will tell much more about what chance he might have.