Steelers free agent fullback/tight end David Johnson serves as a poster boy for the role that pure luck plays in success or failure in the NFL.
The Steelers drafted David Johnson in the 7th round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Johnson saw action in 15 games but only caught two balls working into the offense more as a fullback than as a tight end.
Johnson’s role with the team grew gradually in 2010 and 2011, and with the Todd Haley’s arrival as offensive coordinator, David Johnson was to move (nearly) full time to fullback.
He was also entering his restricted free agent year, which meant that only one year lay between him and his second NFL contract.
Eyes may roll at the last statement with memories with Johnson’s egregious drop in the late season Monday Night loss to San Francisco. But Johnson has shone at other times:
- Johnson’s block help spring Rashard Mendenhall free for his 50 overtime run that iced the 2010 opener vs. Atlanta
- David Johnson also stepped it up with 3 catches, including a clutch one on third down vs. Baltimore in December of that year
Still skeptical? Take a close look at the video below (available as of 2/28/13). Hines Ward (rightly) gets credit for making the first block, but it is Johnson (no 85) who makes the block that breaks Mendenhall free past the second level:
Alas, David Johnson had the bad luck tear his ACL in preseason, robbing him of his chance to prove his worth as a fullback.
How Does David Johnson Figure into the Steelers 2013 Plans?
The Steelers plans for Johnson, if they have any, remain a mystery. The press has devoted zero attention to his status. Heath Miller’s long road to ACL recovery might bode well for Johnson, but Johnson is coming back from his own injury, and the last time he was healthy he was transitioning to fullback.
Johnson is not likely to attract much attention from other NFL teams. He’s shown he can help the Steelers, but then again the Steelers have Will Johnson at fullback.
One year ago David Johnson was 16 games away from veteran minimum salaries that start trending towards 7 figures.
Instead Johnson now faces the very real prospect that, in the immortal words of Chuck Noll, he’ll have to begin “life’s work.”