LATROBE, Pa. – The Pittsburgh Steelers loved Wesley Johnson’s versatility when they took him in the fifth round of the draft in May, and it might be his ticket to the 53-man roster – just as it was for starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum two years ago.
Johnson has played as many as three different positions during a single practice, and the former Vanderbilt player has impressed offensive line coach Mike Munchak with how he has handled the demands that the Steelers have heaped on him.
“He can handle all of that without being panicky for a young kid,” Munchak said. “He can do a lot of things, so it’s just a matter of seeing how it translates into the preseason game.”
Munchak said Johnson is most comfortable at left tackle, and the 6-foot-5, 297-pound prospect has gotten the most work there.
It will be interesting to see if the Steelers play Johnson solely at left tackle Saturday night against the New York Giants or if they take a look at him at several positions.
Here are some Friday leftovers:
Rookie defensive end Stephon Tuitt plays in his first NFL game Saturday night, and count Cameron Heyward among those who are anxious to see how the second-round pick fares. Tuitt is likely to start at left defensive end against the New York Giants, opposite Heyward. "He’s a great talent. A little bit raw, plays a little high sometimes, but that’s something we can work on and correct pretty quick," Heyward said. "I love his demeanor and the way he comes to practice every day. He wants to get better and that’s something you appreciate.”
The Steelers have limited Troy Polamalu during tackling drills, and coach Mike Tomlin was asked earlier this week if any thought was given to holding the veteran free safety out of preseason games as a precaution. “I think his mindset and our mindset is probably the same in that he embraces the mindset that comes with checking in with your buddies and your peers and playing,” Tomlin said. “Troy’s going to want to check in and play with his buddies.”
Cornerback Cortez Allen has kept a relatively low profile during training camp, but Ike Taylor expects the fourth-year veteran to put everything together this season. “It’s (time) for him to flourish,” Taylor said. “We saw clips on what he could do last year. If he can just put all of that together, he’s that shutdown corner. He has to understand that and I think he knows the responsibility of being a shutdown corner, but we love him. We love his talent. We love his work ethic. We love his personality. We’re expecting a lot of Cortez this year.”