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Steelers Film Room: Why Wesley Johnson and Dan McCullers made the team

Steelers Film Room takes a look at how and why Wesley Johnson made the team, and also the 2014 Isaac Redman Award Winner, Daniel McCullers.

Joe Sargent

Steelers Film Room is batting .500 when it comes to the late-round draft picks of the 2014 draft class. Wesley Johnson was someone I liked immediately when the Steelers drafted him. He started a lot of games against elite competition in college and he showed great versatility. When you see someone line up at multiple positions, that tells you he's smart and also is able to accept coaching. In the NFL, this equates to upside and that gets you a roster spot.

What impressed me about Johnson was that he always played with a great base and, despite his tall frame, he played with excellent balance in the run game. Those characteristics are on display here in this first clip:

This is a great block.  He is able to torque the nose tackle and provide a nice hole for Le'Veon Bell.  This is a very nice run against an 8-man front.

Where Johnson and all rookies struggle is in pass protection, specifically with the hand-fighting that goes on in the trenches in the NFL. College defensive linemen don't use their hands very well, but rely mainly on speed and athleticism. When they get to the NFL, this is where they learn to use their hands and they school rookie offensive lineman as shown in this clip:

This is a great move by the defensive lineman. He posts with his inside hand and then swipes with his outside hand.  Notice also the deep drop by Landry Jones. Johnson didn't have to protect this long in college  The ball got out a lot quicker.

These will be adjustments for Johnson but, as was mentioned, he has great upside. Moreover, it's not like he was competing with Anthony Munoz for a roster spot. The Steelers needed to groom some good young talent to be future starters. Guy Whimper did an admirable job when called on in a backup role last year, but that's what he is. Johnson has the potential to be a starter in this league.

I never thought Daniel McCullers had the potential to be a starter in this league but I was wrong. Our fine editor was, rightly, more optimistic about Shade Tree. Or, as he has been known to say, maybe he's more optimistic because our defensive line coach is better than yours. Regardless, McCullers had an impressive camp.  This play really highlights how far he has come:

This is just a fantastic play. Notice also that he's not playing a zero-technique position. Moreover, the Steelers are playing with four defensive linemen, two inside linebackers and five defensive backs.  It's interesting because the Steelers only kept three outside linebackers The Steelers have struggled with their nickel run-defense, so this is something to watch as the 2014 season unfolds.

But, back to McCullers, he displays lateral agility here that, frankly, I didn't think he had. I was wrong and boy am I happy I was. Moreover, what a great tackle for a man of his size. I didn't see this athleticism on his college film. Obviously, others didn't as well, but the Steelers seem to have found another late-round defensive lineman.

Actually, they seem to have hit on two late draft picks. Teams are normally built from the inside out, and the youth of both the offensive and defensive lines bodes well for the Steelers in 2014 and beyond.