The Pittsburgh Steelers have always been known as a hard-nosed downhill running type of team. From Franco Harris to Merril Hoge, the team usually had a difference-maker at the position. However, at the turn of the century the fullback position became a dying bread in a time of high-flying offenses. The position seems to be having a renaissance of sorts with the likes of Kyle Juszczyk, C.J. Ham, and even Derek Watt who have pass catching and run blocking ability.
Let’s take a look at every Steelers Fullback the past 20 years and what they brought to the team.
Dan Kreider was one of the best Fullbacks of the 2000s. He was a hard-nosed runner, a devastating blocker, and came up clutch on a number of times throughout his career.
Krieder was the Steelers rookie of the year back in 2000, which we may never see again from a fullback, and won Super Bowl XL with the club. Kreider even famously delivered the block which gave Ben Rothelisberger just enough space to score his QB sneak touchdown.
Carey Davis was the last true fullback for a number of years for the Steelers. The offense transitioned into a pass first attack in the 2009 season rendering a high-snap playing fullback useless.
Davis’ best season would come in 2007 where he would tally the majority of his career yards, but would go on to win the Super Bowl in 2008.
David Johnson was a converted tight end at the fullback position. He played a very quiet game more centered around blocking than being a target with the football. Being a fullback in a pass-happy era hurt Johnson’s playing time. Injury cut both his 2012 and 2013 seasons short.
Johnson was again brought back into the organization in 2016 in more of a tight end role to help the team transition from the Heath Miller era.
Will Johnson was the fullback built for the receiving era. Lighter (240 pounds) and quicker (4.71 40-yard dash time) then the traditional fullback, Johnson was brought in to be used as a receiver out of the backfield.
Unfortunately, with Le’Veon Bell’s catching ability and the rest of Steelers receiving corps it was hard to justify throwing passes to the undrafted fullback. Johnson was used in a mostly special teams role but did haul in a career 14 receptions, 235 yards, and 3 touchdowns.
The Steelers most recent fullback and Pro Bowler, Rosevelt Nix saw a return to the traditional-type full back. Nix transitioned from playing defensive tackle in college to playing a very hard-nosed style of fullback in the NFL.
With the Todd Haley offense rarely using a fullback, Nix had to make an impact on special teams in order to even make the roster. As time went on, Nix was used more and more in the offensive game plan and would be named to the Pro Bowl in 2017. In 2019 he would be named Steelers special teams captain but a knee injury would cut his season, as well as his Steelers career, short.
The latest Fullback to join the Steelers arsenal is the middle Watt brother. Derek has been a special teams ace during his career and has made plays catching the ball out of the backfield. Considering he's the second highest paid fullback (based on percentage) in the NFL, it might be time we see Merril Hoge levels of production from the position for the first time since the 90’s
What do you think? Is the fullback position dead? Who was your favorite fullback the last 20 years, and do you think Derek Watt will bring a high level of production to the Steelers? Let us know in the comments below.