Steelers TE David Johnson Signs His One Year Tender Offer

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 08: David Johnson #85 of the Pittsburgh Steelers attempts to break a tackle after catching a pass against the Cleveland Browns during the game on December 8, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

As expected, fourth year Steelers TE David Johnson signed his 1-year $1.26 million (lowest level) restricted free agency tender offer, giving him a guaranteed contract for the 2012 season.

Johnson, a 2009 seventh-round pick out of Arkansas State, has been used as the team's second tight end and often motioned into the backfield and was utilized as an H-back in his career.

Unlikely to have drawn any real interest on the restricted free agency market, the Steelers did not give him a tender level requiring a draft pick in compensation of a team signing him away. Instead, the Steelers held onto exclusive rights, meaning, they had the opportunity to re-sign him to any offer sheet another team would have gotten him to sign.

Johnson is perhaps notorious in SteelerNation for a few drops this season, a definite area of his game he'll need to improve if he wants to stay in the NFL beyond the 2012 season.

The signing of veteran TE/H-back Leonard Pope makes things interesting as well. With TE Weslye Saunders slated to sit out the first four games of the season due to a violation of the league's policy on banned substances (he will not count against the 53-man roster until he's cleared to participate), it seems Pope and Johnson will compete for a spot in the starting lineup, opposite TE Heath Miller.

What role that will be, exactly, is a matter of some conjecture. Pope played H-back for Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley in Kansas City, and was more of a pure tight end when he was with him in Arizona. Haley is known for his offensive creativity, and while Pope's signing seems to be more befitting a replacement veteran who understands Haley's ways, understanding of both the running back position as well as the tight end position (and the offensive line, for that matter) is critical for a true H-back.

That isn't to say Johnson would certainly lose out to Pope, it's possible Haley could use all of them in jumbo packages in short-yardage and goal line situations. Putting two tight ends on the line with a fullback or an H-Back in front of a halfback is a legit and effective formation.

Incidentally, that was the package the Steelers were in when RB Jerome Bettis infamously fumbled at the goal line against the Colts in the 2005 AFC Divisional game.

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