When the Steelers running game started off slowly early on this season, the players preached patience, saying that things would soon turn around. While some might have doubted that, the players never did and the last two weeks the ground game has been a key factor in the Steelers wins.
Part of the reason for the success can be credited to the power running game provided by Jonathan Dwyer and also to the blocking, including the contributions of fullback Will Johnson.
When Johnson first signed with the Steelers this offseason, he was hoping to make the team and contribute on special teams. But after fullback David Johnson suffered a season ending injury in the preseason, Will Johnson’s role quickly changed.
“When I first came in I knew I was going to be competing for a spot, whether special teams or whatever,” said Johnson, now the team’s only fullback. “My role is to be a fullback and do what they ask me to do and earn the coaches’ confidence and trust.”
Johnson has also earned the trust of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and not only is he asked to block, but also be a part of the passing game. Johnson was wide open for a one-yard touchdown against the Redskins, for his first NFL score.
“We do it a lot in practice. It works then,” said Johnson of the touchdown play. “I was surprised they lost me. There is usually a guy right on my hip. I was surprised I was wide open. As soon as I turned around I knew. I saw the linebacker get lost in the mix and I knew I was going to be open.
“Ben seemed like he fired it right in. Luckily enough I was on the goal line and able to get it.”
Johnson’s numbers for the season aren’t anything that jump out, with one carry for five yards and six catches for 52 yards and the one touchdown. But what he adds is another weapon to an offense that is loaded with threats at receiver, tight end and running back.
“We have a lot of versatile players,” said Johnson. “I think we are showing a lot of balance.”
The other thing they are showing is confidence. Just like the players preached the running game would come on strong, after losing three games early on the veterans let the young players know that there was no reason to worry.
“I trust the guys,” said Johnson. “They have been in this position and have a lot of Super Bowl rings. I trust guys and doing what I had to do.”
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