NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 06: Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans runs with the ball and is tackled by Brandon Johnson #59 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the NFL game at LP Field on November 6, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Without the benefit of abundant salary cap space, the Steelers had to take an aim-small-miss-small mentality in free agency this off-season.
After initially kicking the tires of seven-year pro Brandon Johnson, he left Pittsburgh without a contract signed, but that changed Wednesday. Johnson joins a Steelers linebacking corps looking to add depth through experience, and that's what they got in Johnson.
Interestingly, though, he's slated to play on the outside.
Veteran OLB James Harrison is said to have suffered a knee injury, and Jason Worilds has been hampered this off-season with a wrist injury. Johnson, who hasn't played in a pass-rushing role in his previous six NFL seasons, has the body of a 3-4 OLB (6-foot-5, 245 pounds), even without the experience.
Johnson, an unrestricted free agent from Cincinnati, has been a solid contributor on the weak side in Cincinnati's defense, and played well on special teams. He brings enough experience to help bolster the inside, which appears to start Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons.
Johnson, the Bengals' special teams captain in 2010, played inside and outside in Cincinnati, and had 83 tackles in 2008. The Bengals invested heavily in the position since then, and Johnson became expendable.
If nothing else, he's a veteran-savvy, versatile linebacker who can contribute on special teams while some of the younger players develop more fully.
To make room for Johnson and long-snapper Matt Katula, whom they also signed Wednesday, the Steelers released TE Wes Lyons and placed WR Connor Dixon on the waived/injured list.