Steelers News

Mike Tomlin: ‘You May See More’ Of Buddy Johnson Moving Forward Following Rookie’s Defensive Debut

The Pittsburgh Steelers have now played every one of their eight rookie draft picks who made the team this year on their respective units—whether offense (four), defense (three), or special teams (one). The latest draft pick to make his offensive or defensive debut was fourth-round inside linebacker Buddy Johnson, who logged six snaps in the second half of Thursday’s game, and head coach Mike Tomlin earlier today suggested that isn’t necessarily the last you’ll see of him.

You may see more of him. We just wanted to turn the stones over, as I mentioned, and that’s an example of it”, he told reporters during his pre-game press conference about the Texas A&M product logging snaps, mixing in with both Devin Bush and Joe Schobert—three snaps apiece—in their base 3-4 defense.

“He did some good things and some things that he could have done better”, Tomlin acknowledged in assessing Johnson’s debut. “We’ll let participation in our work week be our guide, not only with him, but a lot of people”.

While Bush and Schobert have been the starters at inside linebacker all season, Robert Spillane has held the dime linebacker role for most of the year, during which neither of the starters are on the field. While he has missed time due to injury, Marcus Allen has seen some time in the dime. Tomlin is hopeful of getting the group back healthy this week.

“If Robert Spillane has proven his health, there may be less opportunities for him”, he said about Spillane potentially taking playing time away from Johnson. “I don’t want you to paint me into a corner from that perspective. I’m just open to the inclusion of people that you haven’t been seeing, particularly in recent weeks, in planning this week”.

It’s not the worst problem in the world to have, of course. While the inside linebacker position has obviously lacked in quality so far this year, they are at least exploring their options and hoping to have all possibilities available to them this week.

Spillane, as you’ll remember, started seven games last season—missing four due to injury—after Bush tore his ACL. He generally acquitted himself well, particularly against the run, and if you’ve been following along, that is where they desperately need help.

So just as they are exploring the possibility of using Johnson defensively, who has been a healthy scratch for the majority of the year, the likely return of Spillane is going to impede whatever opportunities he might have. But it would be for the betterment of the unit as a whole, at least as far as their prospects for this season goes, which not all fans have completely abandoned.

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