The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2016 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Never the less, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: David Johnson
Position: Tight End
Experience: 5 Years
There was a time in the game when David Johnson, the Steelers’ tight end, was the best player in the league with that name. Unfortunately he can’t say that about himself any longer what with the running back out in Arizona being all impressive and whatnot, but I still like the David Johnson the Steelers have had and believe he’s deserving of another contract.
Originally a seventh-round draft pick in 2009, Johnson was a bit of a man without a position, or perhaps with multiple positions, and he has served different primary roles in different years. He has at times been their fullback, and he has also been both a move and an in-line blocking tight end.
In his return to the team last year following two seasons out in San Diego, Johnson earned his way onto the 53-man roster as one of four tight ends—though it was originally three for obvious reasons relating to the health of the other tight end from San Diego they signed—and by season’s end he had a specific role carved out for himself.
The Steelers no longer have that all-in-one tight end that they lost with Heath Miller’s retirement last year, so his services have had to be distributed piecemeal around the room, and Johnson has drawn a heavy percentage of the strict run-blocking assignments, a role that expanded late in the year.
The fact of the matter is that by the end of the season, Pittsburgh was using a specific two-tight-end package in running formations that featured Chris Hubbard as an extra lineman and Johnson as a versatile piece who could be on the line or otherwise—but the key piece of data here is that Jesse James was on the bench.
Johnson is still the best blocking tight end that the team has, both in terms of his soundness of assignment and in execution, and, despite hesitation to believe it, his weight loss in the offseason has even allowed him some range of mobility, which he showed on a number of opportunities.
He also does have the capability of catching the ball, though he gets few opportunities—not that I’m campaigning for more. He even showed soft hands with a one-handed snare of a two-point conversion pass.
As of right now I would welcome Johnson back as the Steelers’ third tight end, and as a player with a continued role barring significant development from James as a Miller-quality blocker. He would also be their backup fullback, of course.