Steelers notebook: Steelers look to work tight end into no-huddle offense
Ben Roethlisberger is always looking for ways to expand the no-huddle offense, but who would've thought the next progression would include Will Johnson?
The Steelers fullback has been moved out of the running back room and in with the tights exclusively this year for the first time with the thought of being able to use the sure-handed Johnson more in the no-huddle offense than in a straight fullback role.
“I am learning different routes and different reads and hots,” Johnson said. “Hey, it gets me on the field and gives me a chance to make plays.”
Johnson, who is in his third year out of West Virginia, has 23 career catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson did not play a snap in the no-huddle a season ago, but his unique skill set of being big, strong and having good hands could provide matchup issues for opposing defenses.
“It helps having Will Johnson, who is a fullback, tight-end kind of guy, so we can move him around and do some run-pass game with him as well,” Roethlisberger said.
Roethlisberger completed 102 of 163 passes for 1,221 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception out of the no-huddle last year. The Steelers also called 76 run plays out of the formation mostly with the same skill players on the field.
“In years past, it has been one, maybe two personnel groups,” Roethlisberger said. “Now we can do some different things.”
Spence for 6
If linebacker Sean Spence had any doubts he is 100 percent back from a gruesome knee injury that cost him his first two years, Wednesday might have erased those.
Spence dropped into coverage during a team period in which the offense was backed inside the 5-yard line. He intercepted a pass from Landry Jones intended for Darrius Heyward-Bey and returned it for a touchdown.
“I pretty much had a spot drop, and Coach (Keith) Butler has been pretty much harping on spot drops and reading the quarterback eyes all week,” Spence said. “I finally put it all together and got an interception.”
For Spence, making a play by reacting was a confidence boost heading into training camp in late July.
“Being out of football for two years and being able to read the quarterback and break on it and make an interception without thinking about it felt pretty great,” Spence said. “I am 100 percent now, and I am looking forward to taking the next step.”
For the second consecutive year, a rookie minicamp tryout player will be going to training camp with the Steelers.
The Steelers signed former Jeannette running back Jordan Hall (Ohio State) on Wednesday — a month after he tried out with the Steelers during rookie minicamp — and released rookie cornerback Deion Belue.
“I felt like I had a good weekend when I came down here,” Hall said. “I was talking to Coach Tomlin and (Todd Haley) a lot, so I felt like we had a good vibe.”
The Steelers signed Terrence Garvin after a tryout last year. He made the team and played in 15 games.
Tuitt is the last
Second-round pick Stephon Tuitt became the last of the Steelers' rookies to sign, when he agreed to a four-year deal.
Based on the wage scale, Tuitt will make $4.42 million with a signing bonus of $1.7 million and a 2014 salary cap hit of $797,000.