The calendar has now flipped over to July and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers annual training camp will be getting underway in Latrobe later this month. As usual, we have several series planned to get you ready for this year’s training camp and mine will center around preview profiles of 50 players over the course of the next 25 days. Most of these profiles will be on players who were under contract with the team in 2016.
Up thirty-fifth in this series is a 2017 preview profile of tight end David Johnson.
Intro: After spending his two previous seasons with the San Diego Chargers, Johnson returned to the team he started his career with in 2009 last offseason. While he didn’t light up the stat sheet in the 250-plus offensive snaps he played, he was an effective player for the most part when on the field. He started five games in 2016 due to injuries and ended the regular season with seven receptions for 80 yards with a long of 26. He also played 84 total special teams snaps, but failed to record any tackles.
Current Strengths: Johnson is a capable player as both an in-line and in-space blocker from the tight end position and while not the starter, a capable fullback as well, who can pull from either side of the line. He is well-built and has long arms. He’s still very aggressive and a player who plays through the whistle.
Current Weaknesses: Johnson’s route running and catching ability has never been a strength of his and thus he’s not a very useful option in the passing game outside of an occasional wheel or flair-out route. He struggles to get separation and open off the line. Not the best special teams core player.
2017 Outlook: The fact that the Steelers signed Johnson to a new two-year contract early in free agency bodes well for him sticking with the team at least one more season. With that said, he’s still very cuttable should a better backup tight end/fullback option exist. Johnson’s position flexibility and experience, however, should ultimately play out in his favor in 2017. Should starting fullback Roosevelt Nix remain healthy in 2017, Johnson figures to play less offensive snaps than he did in 2016.
2017 Base Salary: $900,000
2017 Salary Cap Charge: $1,017,500
2017 Health Status: No known ailments exiting offseason program
2016 Health Status: Zero games missed last season due to injury
2016 Regular Season Snaps Played: 259 of 1,083
2016 Stat That Matters: Averaged 11.4 yards per reception