CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 01: David Johnson #85 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tackled by teammates Jordan Pugh #29 and Charles Godfrey #30 of the Carolina Panthers during their preseason game at Bank of America Stadium on September 1, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Injuries were a huge problem and a hindrance for the 2011 version of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the injury bug has already left an indelible mark on the 2012 season after Steelers tight end/fullback David Johnson was likely lost for the year with an ACL tear after teammate Marcus Gilbert rolled up his leg during a play in the first quarter of the team's, 24-23, loss to the Eagles in the preseason opener Thursday night (final confirmation of Johnson's injury could come later today or sometime this weekend).
Johnson was battling for the starting fullback spot, and with his ability to also play tight end, you had to figure a good showing in the preseason would have almost assured him a spot on the roster. And if recent reports from Latrobe were any indication, he was having a pretty decent training camp.
That is obviously a moot point now, and Will Johnson, an undrafted free agent out of West Virginia and the only fullback currently on the roster, appears to be the front runner for that spot. However, according to this article by Steelers' insider Ed Bouchette, the team may still go out and find another fullback:
Will Johnson has had his good moments and not so good in camp and he will now get a good, long look at fullback. He is listed as 6-2, 238. He finished up at WVU last year, went undrafted and then went unsigned. He was not on a team or in a camp in 2011. The Steelers signed him before the draft this year..... I was told that they will probably have to go outside to look for a fullback.........Another former WVU fullback, Owen Schmitt is with the Oakland Raiders, having signed there in May. Former Pitt fullback Lousaka Polite is available after being cut by the Miami Dolphins before last season. He turns 31 next month.
In other injury news, rookie Mike Adams, who was named the starter at left tackle earlier in the week, also left the game in the first quarter after suffering a knee injury while recovering a fumble that was the result of getting beat for a sack on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. However, at his post-game press conference Thursday night, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin indicated that Adams' injury did not appear to be severe. Adams struggled a great deal in his short rookie debut, and regardless of the severity of his injury, his struggles (and the amount of time he may have to miss due to the injury) could result in slipping back down the depth chart once Max Starks is fully recovered from an ACL tear suffered last season.
The only other injury of note was a minor shoulder sprain for third year running back Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer rushed for 40 yards on two carries--including a 33 yard run to set up the team's first touchdown--before leaving the game in the second quarter.
Injuries are always going to be a part of football, but after suffering through a season-long rash of injuries in 2011--in addition to Starks, Casey Hampton and Rashard Mendenhall are also still recovering from ACL tears suffered at the end of last season--you hate to see the 2012 season start off with another season ending injury.