"@MarkKaboly_Trib: When exactly did David Johnson become this amazing blocker? Average at best as a lead blocker; below average at end-of-the-line blocking."
From your lips to the football god's ears. That was the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer's query and assessment of the Pittsburgh Steelers injured tight end/fullback/H-back.
We at If It Ain't Steel have been honest about DJ's blocking as well, specifically his average-at-best blocking in the Super Bowl. One blocking faux pas in particular that led to a turnover.
That said, he's a versatile player who head coach Mike Tomlin likes. Tomlin likes those types who have "position flexibility." So, it was no surprise when it was announced that the Steelers added tight end Justin Peelle to take his place on the 90-man roster.
Peelle has played for the San Diego Chargers, the Miami Dolphins, the Atlanta Falcons and last season Peelle played with the San Francisco 49ers. He is listed at 6'4" 250 pounds and also has experience as a fullback. Position flexibility. -http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/08/13/steelers-add-veteran-tight-end-justin-peele/
Another reason it wasn't a surprise is because West Virginia product Will Johnson is the only fullback on the roster. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote about this recently. -http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/steelers/will-johnson-finds-way-to-play-at-friends-expense-648625/
Johnson will likely be placed on the Steelers injured reserve list after he clears waivers. He signed a one-year, $1.26 million restricted tender this offseason, and then promptly tore both his ACL and MCL against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first preseason game.
Per Bouchette, Kaboly, and ESPN's David Todd, ones who'd actually know what they're talking about, the move allows the Steelers to bring a body into Training Camp, Peelle, right now instead of having to wait until September 3rd. He was going to be an unrestricted free agent next year anyway. Now they can immediately fill his roster spot. So, the bottom line is that this is not a bad thing for DJ, his injury settlement will be the full amount of his salary, $1.26 million.
All of this being said, how does it affect the team and other parts of the offense? Believe it or not, it affects three elements of the offense. Obviously the fullback and tight end positions, but also the offensive line.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said recently that Ramon Foster and Trai Essex were having great Training Camps. Well, that will be put to the test, and will be more on display, in the final three preseason games. With Mike Adams and Max Starks injured, the mettle of Foster and Essex will be tested. Especially in a new offense where offensive line coach Sean Kugler and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were going to focus on improving the running game and protecting Big Ben.
With that goal in mind, Kugler went with his "best five" in practice the last couple of days with Adams out, which was Marcus Gilbert at left tackle, Willie Colon at left guard, Maurkice Pouncey at center, DeCastro at right guard and Foster at right tackle.
DeCastro is your plug-and-play starter at right guard and Colon is ready to maul people at left guard (by the way, Colon was not moved to left guard because of short arms-he has 34" arms), but Foster is a guy who can play both guards and is now being thrown out there with the first team at right tackle. He may not end up as a starter, but he's invaluable to this offensive line.
Essex has also seen time at tackle, both left as well as right tackle, in drills. Essex is the ultimate jack of all trades...and master of none. He's played all five positions on the line at some point in his career with the Steelers, but doesn't excel at any of them. Along with that, the weight lost by Essex over the summer doesn't instill confidence that he could considered a starter at any position.
So, with all the information we have on the offensive line and again with Adams out for another week and a half and Max Starks predicting he wouldn't be able to play before "the end of August," that creates a need when using particular packages.
For instance, when using 13-personnel and 22-personnel packages, the tight ends are extra linemen. So, when you're already down linemen, tight ends and a fullback you're going to have to do different things to compensate. To exemplify this, against the Eagles last week DJ was used six times in 15 plays on the opening Steelers drive. His loss absolutely needed to be addressed.
I touched on some of this in the following interview with Lance Williams of SteelCurtainRadio.com and @SteelRadio on Twitter. -http://steelcurtainradio.com/?p=241 DJ may not be the second coming of Larry Brown, who played tight end and right tackle for the Steelers Super Bowl teams of the '70s, but he is serviceable enough to be missed this season. I'm sure Will Johnson and Peelle have heard by now that the standard is the standard. Here's to hoping that one of them exceeds it.
And in this corner...
Ok, so it's now seven Steelers fights in 13 practices. To the point where Ike Taylor and Antonio Brown went a few rounds. My response? Punching a helmet isn't bright. Outside of that, like Mike Tomlin said, it's just emotional men playing an emotional game.
It's neither a lack of discipline issue, nor is it a lack of leadership issue. If you're a man with brothers or simply know how men/brothers are, the players are personifying that very thing. We piss each other off, yell at each other, throw a couple of punches and an hour later are buying each other a drink or two. Don't believe me? Listen to Ike and AB, then.
On their personal Twitter accounts, both Ike and AB apologized to Steeler Nation for the fisticuffs. Ike wrote: "@Ike_SwagginU: Me and @AntonioBrown84 we GOOD sometimes FAMILY members get into it
We got it off our chest SHOOK hands AFTER
NOW WE AT BREAKFAST
AB, just honest, wrote: "@AntonioBrown84: Please forgive me and my brother @Ike_SwagginU for the frustration in camp we love each other sincerely! Meet us on Carson at Cafe Davio"
Look, the fights are a non-story. Period. Yes, there have been a high number, but this is nothing new. The only reason we know about them and are able to track them in the first place is that double-edged sword known as social media. That's it, that's the list, as Mr. Tony would say. How many of you would've been calling for Ernie Holmes' head had you known he virtually threatened Dwight White in Holmes' first Training Camp and had been shooting at police helicopters?
Besides, I like the fire. Also, according to Ken Laird, Casey Hampton (a veteran leader) instigated part of it. Plus, If it was an actual problem with 'lack of leadership' the true leaders, Tomlin or the Rooneys as Bill said, would step in and quash it. Tomlin has them practicing in the heat of the day and players are battling for position or to get better-tempers are GOING to flare.
So, just enjoy the few remaining days of Camp and remember: keep your chin tucked low and your gloves up high.