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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

OTA news and notes

Isaac Redman told reporters today that the Steelers do, indeed, have a fullback on the roster. The Steelers have moved David Johnson to fullback on a full-time basis.

Redman said this will help Johnson as a blocker since he formerly had to go to tight end meetings and did not attend sessions with the running backs. Redman, who is glad about the change, said the running backs will be better able to show Johnson where they would like their lead blocker during their film breakdowns.

@ Draft picks David DeCastro, Mike Adams and Alameda Ta'amu are not at these OTAs because their colleges are still in session.

@ Linebacker Jason Worilds was at the session today but not practicing. He has a cast on his left wrist.

Defensive end Brett Keisel is among those not here as well. He's still recovering from his groin injury suffered against Denver.

@ Talked to Keenan Lewis today. He feels like the starting job is his to lose after logging more than 500 defensive snaps last season.

He also said he's been in constant contact with teammate Mike Wallace and that it is difficult seeing people rip his friend for not being at the OTAs. The other players don't mind.

@ Also spoke with Maurkice Pouncey briefly about the new offense. He said that the blocking scheme isn't different, just some different verbiage.

He also likes the move of Willie Colon to guard. Said it gives the Steelers a lot of nasty in the middle of the line.


Patrick said...

Mike needs to show up to OTA's.

joe said...

couldn't care less if mw isn't at ota's

Anonymous said...

Dale, just to clarify, does "The other players don't mind." mean they don't mind he's not there or don't mind he's being ripped?

pixburghese said...

You should read Ron Cook's Post-Gazette article explaining how little it matters that Wallace is not at It's a because, well, the Stillers always have the upper hand.

Dale Lolley said...

The other players aren't upset he's not there.

Tim said...

If Johnson is on the team when the regular season starts, then we will have failed at least one position over the offseason. Can't catch, can't run, can't block, doesn't know who to block... Fixing one of those is a good start, but can't we just get a decent player instead?

Here's hoping that WR we signed to play FB can block better than the 270 pound D. Johnson. I wouldn't rule it out.

Dirt4HOF said...

If Willie can stay healthy he just might be around for a long time and at a high level. A healthy Willie could see some pro bowls (if they still have them.)
Lewis has really turned things around and I hope he can keep the starting job. Just goes to show what staying in a good enviorment can do for a guy.
I`m more concerned about our top 3 young picks net being here yet than I am about Wallace. And I`m really not too worried about that.
It`s nice to see guys on the team speak up about Mike to the media.

Dale Lolley said...

Where are the great college fullbacks Tim? They aren't there because nobody in college uses them any longer.
I've seen Johnson throw some good blocks. Seen him miss some.
But the fact that he was always in the tight end meetings might have had something to do with that. Never worked with the running backs in practice other than when he lines up in front of them.
I don't know that he'll ever be a great fullback. But it's possible he'll be adequate.

Tim said...

Seen him make some, seen him miss some? English is a funny language, because it sounds from that like he makes as many as he misses. It also sounds like that would be an acceptable ratio, even if it was true. Those numbers could be 2 and a million respectively and you'd be telling the truth. I've seen Ryan Leaf make some good throws. No lie.

Did anyone hear me say or imply "great"? Or "college"? I'm looking for better than Johnson -- a guy who, as you just said, is sub-adequate after three years of full playing time. There are no adequate fullbacks in the world?? We haven't replaced him not because they don't exist or even because they're hard to find, but because we haven't tried.

Since Kreider, the team has not even tried to find a fullback, despite almost always using a fullback, which they do despite claiming they never use a fullback. I don't care if they put Shaun Suisham in there; if he's lead blocking for Mendenhall 2 out of 3 running plays, he's a fullback. They get running backs and tight ends and try to convert them because those guys are supposed to be bigger running/receiving threats than "pure" blockers like Kreider (or maybe because there aren't any fullbacks left in the world, like you said), then they put no emphasis on the blocking part as evidenced by insisting DJ is still a TE (perhaps so BA could keep his anti-FB claim?), and the result is that the blocking suffers, the running game gets its knees cut out from under it, we lose a Super Bowl and we get squat for what we sacrificed because none of the guys we tried can produce any more than Kreider on the receiving/running end of things anyway. Meanwhile, we chase John Kuhn out of here because the game has evolved past him and his type.

I refuse to believe we can't do better than Johnson in any phase of his game. I'll give him props as an average blocking tight end, but that's not even on the radar of things we need. Anything he's decent at is already replaced by Pope/Saunders. He's below average as a receiver and runner and lead blocker, and if we're gonna give every team-sabotaging starter 4 years to get their act together despite having zero investment in them, I don't see how we're going to get better. I hope a miracle happens and one of these other non-fullbacks can do an adequate job.

Wait, maybe I spoke too soon. How many touchdowns was Johnson on the field for last year? That might change my mind.

Anonymous said...

lol...only steelers fans can muster the moxie required to speak so intensely about the fullback position. i think its funny you're so anti-johnson while subsequently admitting you have no idea how well he did in scoring situations.

kyle said...

Tim went on a tear about David Johnson last season as well. He hates him. He thinks the Steelers should invest a lot more in the 3rd TE/FB than they have. The Steelers did not lose the Super Bowl because of the presence of David Johnson and having to face the mighty John Kuhn. They lost because Kemo was awful and Troy was hurt and the Packers were pretty good. I hope somebody better than DJ takes his spot. I hope somebody better takes anybody's spot. Crimony.

HACK said...

My problem with DJ is he was a liability in all facets of the game outside of blocking. He made blocks...he missed blocks...fine...its the NFL and the other guys get paid too....but he has only caught 18 balls in 3 years....and is never a threat to carry the ball....he is a one trick pony at FB/HB and its not that good a trick....out of roughly 870 offensive snaps...he touched the ball 18 times....he was not even a decoy..he was an afterthought that the defense need not pay attention to.

Anonymous said...

put Legursky at Fullback

hes a better blocker and probably a good deep threat at receiving

Anonymous said...

Then is not now...
How many times does the F.B. need to touch the ball? Out of 870 plays, if he touches it 20 times, that's 5 too many! That means our running back can't make it past the oline. Let the guy study some film with his coworkers before we call in to the owners... You guys always have something to bitch about... Be thankfull your a Steelers fan..... We have been a pretty damn good team over the last 34 years with you guys coaching from your lazyboy.

Joe Jones said...

Dale already stated that there are no more nasty college full-backs that can transition their "back-breaking" blocks onto the NFL playing surface. Harry Hynoski was the last of an endangered species.

If you put a full back in, it's going to be short-yardage situations, so you might as well put in a big ugly 270lb bartholomieu caveman like David Johnson

Dale Lolley said...

How often did Dan Kreider touch the ball? About five times per year.
The Steelers just don't use their fullbacks as threats.
Having the fullbacks catch a ton of passes is a West Coast offense thing. John L. Williams cauught some balls, but he couldn't block.

Anonymous Brian said...

I could care less if the Steelers have a true fullback or not. There's something The Bruce and I agreed on.

Who knows, maybe this alleged full-time fullback role is DJ's only chance to make the roster, and he's gone if it doesn't work out. I agree he's completely replaceable. I'm still annoyed at him for dropping that first-down pass vs. the Ravens in week 9 last year.

Anyway if the O-line makes a big improvement, a possibility, the running game should be alot better even if Tiny Tim were fullback, and even if it's only a little better, there's still a top 5 QB and a bunch of explosive receivers on the roster to help it out.

KT said...

"Having the fullbacks catch a ton of passes is a West Coast offense thing. John L. Williams cauught some balls, but he couldn't block."
- Man, that makes me feel old. Merril Hoge played fullback, and he caught a lot of passes...

Honestly, I thought that Johnson did ok when lined up in the backfield. Not great, but OK. I also seem to remember him throwing a great block on Mendenhall's OT game winner vs. Atlanta in '10.

HACK said...

The FB should at least be an OPTION at some point to do something....BA would on occasion put Redman in front of Mendenhall...and did the quick hit up the middle...On the handful of plays where both Mendenhall and Redman were used...both had to be given attention from the defense... DJ was never looked at...and why should he be.

Seriously..if you have no intention of using your TE/FB/H....why not just use a G/FB and free up a hat on gameday?

Tim said...

Anonymous @ 2:46 PM:

Who said anything about how he did in scoring situations? I asked how many touchdowns he was on the field for, and I was only poking fun at Dale for using that useless "stat" to defend Jon Scott's play last year.


Hearing someone say I hate him makes me feel a little bad. For all I know he's a great guy. I'm not good enough to play for the Steelers either and neither are my friends, but I don't hate them. I hate that he's what we have and what we've been happy with. I hate that people are satisfied with him messing up on only 50% of our running plays, when that number should be in single digits. I don't know why we're outraged when an offensive linemen lets guys run right past him but give the guy who is always at the point of attack a free pass.

I pin the majority of the blame for the Mendenhall Super Bowl fumble on Johnson. Not all of it, but the majority. I won't claim that we'd have won the game without it, but we would have had a really good chance. There were of course other factors, but causing arguably the most disastrous play of a Super Bowl loss is a big deal regardless. That play is a perfect example of what I call sabotage. Johnson had a clean shot at blocking Matthews, and at the very last second decided not to, probably because he caught a glimpse of the other defender and thought about blocking him. As a result he blocked no one, and Matthews got a clean shot on Mendy, who was 100% surprised to be hit since it sure looked to him like Johnson was going to block Matthews. Yes, he should have held onto the ball anyway, and Matthews got his helmet right on his forearm pretty hard, but that's what happens when you get your guy blindsided. It's no different than a QB making a bad throw leading his receiver straight into a Ryan Clark battering ram. It's self-sabotage.

Another high profile play was the 4th and goal against the Seahawks. DJ had apparently locked his eyes onto some linebacker a few yards deep in the end zone and decided to block him no matter what, and completely ignored Earl Thomas running right past him to make the tackle. This despite Thomas covering Johnson, following him in motion, and Johnson having a pair of eyes. Legursky did the same thing, coincidentally.

But those are just some big ones. It happens on plenty of 2 yard runs that should have been much more, and no one seems to notice them at all. People really don't understand what a big difference having good blocks where his bad ones are would make. Saying I want them to invest in the position sounds like I want them to throw money or a high draft pick at it. I just want them to invest some time in coming up with a solution. UDFA A-OK. But first they'd have to acknowledge that there's a problem, and that seems to be the real problem. Anyone who says the Steelers cannot find a guy with good blocking experience that can run a 4.9 must think pretty little of the Steelers. And if you think the admittedly considerable difference in "skills" like running/receiving translates into production between guys so athletically limited, consider the following stats from

Kreider - 0.5 rec/game, 4.2 yar/game, 7.9 yar/rec

Davis - 0.5 rec/game, 2.1 yar/game, 4.5 yar/rec

Johnson - 0.4 rec/game, 3.1 yar/game, 8.1 yar/rec

As for rushing, Davis had considerably more attempts per game because he was used as a backup running back. Kreider had a considerably better average. Johnson has never rushed. Johnson does win with 7 more inches per reception, but considering he's half tight end I'm not so sure that's winning after all.

For the record, I did closely examine and grade every play DJ was in for 13 games in 2011, and take detailed records. No fuzzy memory here.

marc said...

i think i agree with tim to certain degree.

if you're gonna line a player up in the backfield and have him bloc 95% of the time, it might as well be a pure blocker...a.k.a. fullback. and the fact johnson was in TE meetings instead of RB meetings was a poor decision, imo.

other_patrick said...

I'm not sure that Tim doesn't hate his friends. I asked several how they felt about him grading them for a period of time in 2011.

There are plenty of decent fullbacks on the market all the time and the team doesn't look at them.

Owen Shmitt was on the market until recently. Richardson from the Jets went though waivers last year. Ovie Mugaheli (sp?) is a FA right now that they could grab.

I'm frustrated by that also. no need to turn it into a paranoid diatribe.

Mizou said...

I think a lot of the problems Tim brings up with Johnson's lack of awareness and blocking snafus might really be due to the coaches (generally guessing Ariens) had him not attending one RB/FB meeting, or as Dale put it: "[n]ever worked with the running backs in practice other than when he lines up in front of them."

Heck, if he never attended meetings telling him where to block, never spoke with the RBs, telling him where they want him to block (partially on him at that point too), and really never embraced or was taught the FB position... that's pretty much as good as sending you or I out there. We'd pretty much have just as much clue who/where to block as DJ did.

Not being an apologist for him... I've been sick enough of the missed blocks and poor ability shown- but if there seems to be a realistic reason (unfortunately pinned on coaching decisions) that may have led to this performance, and that reason is now gone.. I'm more than willing to give him the preseason shots at proving his ability. If he's just as bad.. I'll agree 100% with tossing him out and getting a real FB.

kyle said...


My use of the word "hate" was hyperbole. Far be it from me to suggest that you're a hateful person or that your friends are in the untouchable caste because they can't play for the Steelers.

DJ missed 50% of his blocks? That seems like a really specific, conveniently round number doesn't it? Maybe I should watch 14 games from 2011 just to make sure.

Kemo screwed up the block that led to the interception return. Again, it's hard to say what would have happened but I consider that a bigger mistake. One man's opinion and all.

I don't like that I come off like I'm defending DJ. He's not great. He's not even good. At his top dollar best, he's average. What I disagree with is your suggestion that the Steelers were satisfied with him. They've brought in players to compete at that position in camp every single year since he was drafted. He made the squad initially because McHugh got injured. He was about as good as McHugh the next year so they kept him again. And since then they've brought in several TE and H-back types to compete, one of whom - Will Johnson - many think will finally supplant him. The Steelers know he isn't great they just weren't willing to bring in a more expensive free agent or use a higher pick on a position that is about the most devalued on offense. I understand that thinking.

Tim said...

Ugh, made a long response a couple days ago and lost it somehow. Now I'm too over it to redo the whole thing.

Kyle, if you're interested in my evaluations, I'll post the link as soon as it's completely finished. The defensive scores are already complete and up. You can see them and instructions on how to read them at:

Anonymous said...

Dale, does the love feast for McLendon mean that if Ta'amu shows well, then Hampton could be in danger of being released?

Anonymous said...

The Steelers have a fullback. Thank God. Now I can finally sleep at night.

Anonymous said...

The Steelers have a fullback. Thank God. Now I can finally sleep at night.

Anonymous said...

2 things I like out of the new OC so far:

1) Getting all the players to the position they can be most successful. Colon to guard, DJ to full-back. Forget about having too many TEs, what you need is a hat on a hat, and this is the best way to do it.

2) Putting a system in place that fits the players. I read on that the offense is based on the play action, which fits the personality of Ben, the line, the WRs, and the running backs.

Arians was not a horrible coach he just was always obsessed with trying to make the offense something it wasn't and trying to make the players into things they weren't.