It’s another Steelers Offseason and that means “The Steelers Fix” podcast has you covered on all things NFL Draft! During the pre-draft process last year, my co-host Andrew Wilbar and I were able to chat with some rising prospects on the show. It’s a new year, and we have several prospects lined up for more interviews in 2023!
One of those players is 2022 First Team All-Big Ten Left Tackle Paris Johnson, Jr. from Ohio State University. Johnson is widely viewed as the top OT prospect in the entire 2023 Draft class, and one of the top player prospects overall. Johnson took time out of his extremely busy schedule to sit down virtually on “The Steelers Fix” to talk about how he is prepping for the Draft and learn a little bit more about the player many experts have going to the Steelers in early mock drafts.
One of the incredible opportunities one gets as a starting player for a big time Collegiate program like Ohio State is the chance to play in big moments in big games. Johnson did just that in his career, facing tough matchups each year against bitter rival Michigan and even a start in the College Football Playoff semi-final against No. 1 Georgia in 2022. With the stakes high, Johnson relies on preparation to handle the added pressure.
“I feel like, for me, you relieve the pressure you feel from games when you’re more prepared for it. The things you do in practice and what you do in your film study.” Johnson said.
Johnson also acknowledged that in those situations he can feel a Higher Power at work.
“At the same time, I feel like it’s almost a spiritual thing for me. I like to remind myself all the things that God has done for me and my family to put me in a position to play at a high level of college football. It sort of reminds me, and I remind my teammates before the game, like, we’re all meant to be here.
“When you take that, along with the preparation of trying to know your opponent that you’re going to face, I think in the moment you’re not feeling the pressure. You’re just trying to execute the technique the way it’s supposed to be in the moment.”
In addition to his solid approach to playing in big moments, Johnson doesn’t want to be put into a box as a prospect. He feels he has what it takes to slide in wherever a team might need him. For a team like the Steelers, who have several needs along the offensive line, that versatility could come in handy. When I asked him about handling whatever an NFL team might throw at him in his career, Johnson had this to say:
“I think the situation here at Ohio State was kind of similar to that. In my Sophomore year, they said their goal was for the best five [to play] up front and at the time I fit at right guard. I feel like my mentality is, I just want the team to be successful.
“If they need me at right guard or left guard or right tackle, I would take it on completely.”
He also responded with an emphatic, “No” when Andrew asked him if he had a specific blocking scheme that he preferred, further highlighting both his position and scheme versatility.
Paris lit up when we asked him about running back Master Teague, the former OSU Buckeye and teammate of Johnson’s who just signed a future/reserve contract with the Steelers after spending a portion of the 2022 offseason on the team’s practice squad.
“Master Teague, you can see just by looking at him the dude is physically built unlike any other running back.” Johnson said. “You’ve probably seen especially at his weight just how fast he is. So he has all the God-given talent, and when he runs mad, he is hard to stop!”
To close out the interview, I asked Johnson how he’d react if he picked up the phone on Draft Day and heard the voice of Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin on the other end of the line. His response is quite telling for a young man ready to make his dreams a reality in just a few short months.
“I don’t know, I had a thought like this the other day. When that phone rings, all I know is the first thing I’ll do is look at my mom and she’s probably going to be crying, and when she starts crying, I’ll be crying. But as soon as I answer that phone, I’m going to try to sound like I wasn’t just crying, you know? But I think the first thought for me is that, ‘It’s real! I’m officially in the NFL,’ and then I feel like the second thing is, ‘Man, it’s just an honor to be able to play for such an elite franchise.’”
Needless to say, Paris Johnson Jr. is ready for the incredible, life-changing road ahead. The talented offensive lineman is ready to make his mark for whichever team selects him in April. For many Steelers fans, the team selecting Johnson with the 17th overall pick in the 1st Round, would be a big step to improving the offense and getting closer to contender status.
For more from Paris Johnson Jr., click on the player below to listen to our full EXCLUSIVE interview with the former OSU Buckeye on “The Steelers Fix” Podcast: