2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Steelers TE Johnson ready for long-awaited return

By WILL GRAVES - AP Sports Writer
    2013-08-23 14:51

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The whistle sounded to end practice, and wave upon wave of Pittsburgh Steelers jogged off the field to the comfort of the locker room.

Not David Johnson.

To be honest, the tight end doesn't jog. Ever. Johnson moves with a deliberateness typically reserved for those with no particular place to go and no incentive to get there early.

While his teammates made a beeline for the shower, Johnson spent an extra 10 minutes going through one-on-one blocking drills in front of coach Mike Tomlin. Physically spent, he strolled toward the locker room while drinking in the moment his career finally reverted back to normal.

Sure, Johnson never doubted he would make it all the way back from the torn ACL in his right knee that sidelined him for more than a year. He's wise enough to understand, however, that not everybody does.

``I just kept my faith,'' said Johnson, who turns 26 Monday. ``It got a little frustrating at times but in the end you know that you're fortunate.''

Barely 72 hours after being activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list while he completed a lengthy rehabilitation, Johnson will likely see his first game action in 380 days when the Steelers host the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday.

While most of his veteran teammates are simply hoping to get through the final days of what has been a particularly physical training camp, Johnson will try to pick up where he left off before one bad step last August against the Philadelphia Eagles changed the course of his football life.

The injury came just as the Steelers were transitioning Johnson from tight end to fullback. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley saw Johnson's 6-foot-2, 270-pound frame as the perfect road grader for Pittsburgh's renewed commitment to the running game.

Instead Johnson spent the fall of 2012 in football's version of purgatory. While the Steelers slogged through an enigmatic 8-8 season, he quietly began the process of putting his knee back together.

Turns out, he had company. Johnson was joined in the training room by rookie linebacker Sean Spence - who saw his left knee ripped to shreds in the preseason finale - and later by tight end Heath Miller. It was miserable, sure. But at least they had each other's company.

Working out nearly every day, the trio formed what Spence calls a ``fraternity.''

``Guys with a knee injury, you want to see what they're going through, what they're experiencing, how they got over certain things,'' Spence said. ``We kind of leaned on each other.''

And pushed each other too.

If they weren't comparing notes, they were competing to see who could reach their individual benchmarks first. They spent the better part of three weeks isolated from the rest of the Steelers in their own little quarantine. While the other 87 men on the roster slammed into each other to prepare for the regular season, Johnson, Miller and Spence were pulling sleds while running wind sprints or pounding through wearying agility drills designed to test the soundness of their rebuilt joint.

When Johnson was finally given the go-ahead to practice three weeks after a minor procedure to free up scar tissue, it felt like a graduation day of sorts for Miller and Spence too.

``You see DJ activated and it's encouraging,'' Spence said. ``Everybody's got their own path they've got to take, but we all want to end up in the same spot.''

Johnson's return couldn't come fast enough for the Steelers. While Miller is progressing nicely in his return, he remains vague about any timetable for his return and veteran Matt Spaeth, signed in the offseason, is out for two months at least with a torn ligament in his left foot.

That's left most of the tight end duties up to second-year player David Paulson and journeyman Jamie McCoy, who is still waiting to catch his first regular season pass since entering the league in 2010.

Unlike Miller and Paulson, Johnson is not exactly a weapon in the passing game. He has just 18 receptions in 47 games. Instead his specialty involves moving the pile forward. While there will be jitters whenever he walks onto the turf at Heinz Field, he expects them to vanish the second he smashes into the guy on the other side of the ball.

It's something the Steelers need to happen if they want to break out of their preseason malaise. Pittsburgh is winless through two games and is still waiting for the first-team offense to score a touchdown.

The Chiefs haven't been quite so lethargic. They starters scored 10 points against New Orleans, though new quarterback Alex Smith took a small step back in one half of play last week against San Francisco when he completed just 7 of 16 passes for 62 yards and took three sacks against his old team.

``It's preseason,'' Smith said. ``I don't think anybody in the league goes out there and shows everything they have, but at the same time, you want to execute well. I think Pittsburgh feels the same way.''

---

AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City contributed to this report.

---

AP NFL Website: www.pro32.ap.org

---

Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Chris CantyFeb 27 11:32a

Baltimore Ravens DE Chris Canty was released Friday, Feb. 27. The move saved the team around $2.7 million on the salary cap.

Brian HartlineFeb 27 10:32a

Miami Dolphins WR Brian Hartline was released Friday, Feb. 27.

Harry DouglasFeb 27 10:32a

Atlanta Falcons WR Harry Douglas was released Friday, Feb. 27.

Matt HasselbeckFeb 26 07:42p

Indianapolis Colts impending free-agent QB Matt Hasselbeck was re-signed to a one-year deal Thursday, Feb. 26. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Steven JacksonFeb 26 07:32p

Atlanta Falcons RB Steven Jackson will reportedly be released Friday, Feb. 27.

Adrian PetersonFeb 26 05:52p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's suspension was overturned by U.S. District Judge David S. Doty Thursday, Feb. 26. However, the NFL also announced that they will appeal the ruling, [ More ]

Travis KelceFeb 26 05:42p

Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, who led the team with 67 catches and 862 receiving yards in 2014, is expected to be a more prominent part of the [ More ]

Kendall LangfordFeb 26 04:12p

St. Louis Rams DT Kendall Langford was released Thursday, Feb. 26, saving the team $6 million in salary cap space.

Greg HardyFeb 26 02:32p

Carolina Panthers impending free-agent DE Greg Hardy will seek immediate reinstatement after a judge overturned Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's suspension, according to a source.

Theo RiddickFeb 26 02:22p

Detroit Lions RB Theo Riddick likely will be given the chance to earn a bigger role in the offense next season after the team released RB Reggie Bush.

Adrian PetersonFeb 26 12:32p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's suspension has been overturned after a judge granted a motion from the NFL Players Association to vacate the suspension.

Michael RoosFeb 26 12:02p

Free-agent OT Michael Roos (Titans) has announced his retirement from professional football.

Dez BryantFeb 26 09:03a

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant is likely to receive the franchise tag because the team is hesitant to sign him long term due to a lack of trust off [ More ]

Peyton ManningFeb 25 09:23p

The Denver Broncos and representatives for QB Peyton Manning are working on revising the veteran's contract, according to multiple league sources. He is scheduled to draw a $19 million [ More ]

Reggie BushFeb 25 05:33p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush has been cut Wednesday, Feb. 25.

A.J. HawkFeb 25 04:43p

Green Bay Packers LB A.J. Hawk was released Wednesday, Feb. 25. The move will save them $3.5 million against the salary cap in 2015.

Jacoby JonesFeb 25 12:33p

Baltimore Ravens WR Jacoby Jones was released Wednesday, Feb. 25.

Peyton HillisFeb 25 10:43a

New York Giants RB Peyton Hillis was released Wednesday, Feb. 25. The move saves $945,000 on the 2015 salary cap.

Dez BryantFeb 24 10:33p

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant's NFL career could be in jeopardy if a video he allegedly appears is as bad as it sounds. A source said the 'incriminating video [ More ]

Jake LongFeb 24 09:23p

The St. Louis Rams are likely to release OT Jake Long this offseason for savings against the salary cap, according to beat writer Nick Wagoner.

Mathias KiwanukaFeb 24 03:33p

New York Giants DE Mathias Kiwanuka has been released Tuesday, Feb. 24.

DeAngelo WilliamsFeb 24 12:23p

Free-agent RB DeAngelo Williams (Panthers) said he was not upset when the Carolina Panthers told him last week that he'd be released. Williams told Charlotte's WBTV that DE Greg [ More ]

Adrian PetersonFeb 23 06:13p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's father denied a report that Peterson no longer wants to play for Minnesota. Peterson's father said Peterson is still open to a return to [ More ]

Ted Ginn Jr.Feb 23 04:53p

Arizona Cardinals WR Ted Ginn Jr. was released Monday, Feb. 23.

Adrian PetersonFeb 23 02:52p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's situation with the team worsened during the NFL scouting combine as his agent and members of Minnesota's front office had a heated verbal altercation, [ More ]

Victor CruzFeb 21 10:22a

New York Giants WR Victor Cruz (knee) looks good as he continues to recover from a torn right pateller tendon in his knee, according to general manager Jerry Reese. [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIFeb 20 02:52p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III will enter the 2015 season as the team's starting quarterback, and general manager Bruce Allen thinks Griffin's ceiling in the NFL remains high. [ More ]

Devonta FreemanFeb 20 08:42a

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman fits well in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme, according to head coach Dan Quinn. 'My first impression: I can feel the quickness,' Quinn said [ More ]

Victor CruzFeb 19 07:12p

New York Giants WR Victor Cruz (knee) may commence running shortly, according to head coach Tom Coughlin. Cruz is recovering from a torn right patellar tendon in his right knee.

Andre EllingtonFeb 19 05:12p

Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot) remains the focal point of the offense, according to Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians. Ellington split the injured tendon in his left foot, [ More ]

C.J. AndersonFeb 19 02:22p

Denver Broncos RB C.J. Anderson finished the year as the team's No. 1 running back and made the Pro Bowl, but new head coach Gary Kubiak said Anderson must [ More ]

James CaseyFeb 19 02:22p

Philadelphia Eagles TE James Casey has been released.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group