New Faces 2016: ILB Steven Johnson

At this point in the offseason, we find that training camp is just around the corner for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of the league, and a lot has changed for them over the course of the past several months. They have lost a number of players in free agency, through releases, and retirements. But they have also brought in a number of new faces to replace them.

We all know that roster turnover is an ever-present reality for today’s rosters, and it seems that over the course of the past half-decade or so even the Steelers have proven to be as susceptible to the annual shakeup as anybody. With that in mind, we should take the time to get to know some of the new faces with training camp soon to be here.

When it comes to free agency, the Steelers’ crop is never headlined with more than one exciting name, at least as far as it comes to the outside free agents they bring in, since they tend to prefer keeping around the players they already know as opposed to those they don’t.

Still, there is the occasional one-for-one switch-up, and we saw some of that this year with the team making some free agent signings that clearly directly responded to what happened during the free agency process.

The Steelers lost not one, but two inside linebackers in free agency back in March, and both of them were core special teams players. Fittingly, then, they turned around and signed another player who is known for his special teams abilities in fifth-year inside linebacker Steven Johnson.

A veteran of the Broncos and the Titans over the past four years, Johnson is, like departed Terence Garvin, a player who is capable of playing in all four primary phases of special teams, serving on both punt and kick return units, as well as both coverage units.

Johnson could potentially serve as a one-for-one replacement for Garvin in that regard. Garvin was a former undrafted free agent who never successfully carved out a niche for himself on the defensive side of the ball. He briefly held a role on the team’s goal line defense, but he lost even that spot last year.

While I wouldn’t anticipate Johnson seeing a great deal of playing time on defense—he would be, at best, fourth on the depth chart—he has, at least, had some playing experience, and even starting experience, over the course of his four-year career.

Back in 2014, Johnson started seven games for the Broncos, though he did not play every snap, and he recorded 32 tackles and shared half a sack, in addition to recording a fumble. His 57 career tackles have primarily come on special teams.

One interesting note about Johnson is that he has already grown to love the Steelers’ locker room culture, which is fueled by a level of competitiveness and drive for a championship that he didn’t necessarily see matched in his previous stops. He hopes to fit right in and play whatever part the team needs to accomplish their mutual goal of a Super Bowl title.

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