Todd Haley Restores the Fullback to the Steelers Offense

The fullback has returned to Pittsburgh following a five year banishment at the behest of Bruce Arians, thus we have our the first real news to come out of the Steelers OTA’s.

Offically OTA’s stand for “Organized Team Workouts.”

The truth is they boil down to football in shorts. Make no mistake, they give rookies a chance to begin learning the system and get acquainted to the team. But little of consequence happens at these events, although they’re covered in part to supply the voracious appetite that Steelers Nation has for news about its beloved team.

The reemergence of the fullback counts as real news, and it was reported by Ed Bouchette in PG Plus. According to Bouchette’s report, Isaac Redman informed him that David Johnson is now classified as a fullback, and is attending meetings with the team’s backs.

The Steelers drafted Johnson in 2009 as a tight end, and he’s served in both capacities since then.

Bruce Arians’ Original Sin

Bruce Arians got off on the wrong foot with many in Steelers Nation because one of his first moves was to phase out fullback Dan Kreider.

Dan Kreider of course was one of the first of many Kevin Colbert undrafted rookie free agent steals. He earned that distinction because he was a human battering ram, equavilant to or perhaps better than a sixth offensive lineman, at least in running game.

As someone who later became a self-professed Arians Agnostic, I must admit that my initial qualm with phasing out Kreider was that it signaled a departure from “traditional Steelers Football.”

But I am wise enough to know that however strong that sentiment might run, the league is changing, and even if it didn’t, the Steelers wouldn’t have won Super Bowls IX, XIII, XIV, and XLIII without the prolific passing of Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger.

  • That reality does not absolve Arians of his original sin.

The problem with phasing out Kreider, was the simple fact that Kreider,was a stud, and relegating him to the bench signaled an intent to try to force player into a system as opposed to using a system to maximize the talent on hand.

Carey Davis was supposedly Kreider’s replacement, but Davis never did anything to justify the move. Arians preferred to run with two tight ends, which is fine, but you need two good tight ends to make that work, and Matt Spaeth performance was never consistent enough to be considered “good.”

Year after year, fans and the press would clamor for a fullback, and Arians stock response was “my offense doesn’t have a fullback.”

That’s not a terrible thing. Fullbacks are a fading breed not only in the NFL but in football in general. But Arians wasn’t even open to the concept.

Implications of David Johnson’s Move to Fulltime Fullback

David Johnson lined up plenty as a fullback or H-Back over the last few years and showed himself to be a good lead blocker.

His skills should only improve now that he’s there full time, which undoubtedly helped fuel Todd Haley’s decision.

  • The move also has roster implications.

The signing of Leonard Pope gave the Steelers four tight ends on their roster, and they took another in the 7th Round of the 2012 NFL Draft. No one expected them to keep four tight ends, let alone five.

Johnson’s move to fullback potentially gives the Steelers the luxury of keeping Weslye Saunders on the roster.

The Steelers could conceivably open the season with Heath Miller, Lenoard Pope, and David Paulson as their trio of tight ends, and then bring Saunders back when he finishes his suspension, waive Paulson and bring him back to the practice squad.

Of course, now that Johnson is officially a full back, it could put Jonathan Dwyer or Barron Batch’s roster sport in jeopardy, but that remains a tale for another day.

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