Also compounding things, slightly, was the arch-rival Baltimore Ravens' addition of former Pro-Bowler Dallas Clark to their decimated tight end corps.
That leaves the Steelers with really only David Paulson and Jamie McCoy as guys who have a legitimate shot to make the roster at tight end. So why wouldn't the team look to add some help with veterans like Todd Heap, Randy McMichael and Evan Moore still available?
Enter Will Johnson.
The former West Virginia tight end broke out last season as the Steelers' full-time fullback and seized a big opportunity. He played very effectively taking on his new role and became, sort of, a fan-favorite. But in 2013, at least for a few weeks, Johnson may be returning to more of the role he played in college.
Last season, Johnson's first as a pro, he caught 15 passes for the Steelers from the fullback position for 137 yards and scored once. Johnson also did a nice job blocking for a run game that was simply pedestrian in 2012.
As a tight end with the Mountaineers, Johnson never caught more than nine passes in a season. But he was used primarily as a blocker when in the game.
Pittsburgh will most likely look to use Johnson in the way teams like the Raiders and Texans have used Marcel Reece and James Casey (now with the Eagles) -- otherwise known as the H-Back position. These guys are a bit undersized to be full-time tight ends but can still block and catch at a high level.
Although the "H-Back" role may be temporary for Johnson who should return to his fullback spot when Miller returns, if he plays well enough, Pittsburgh might be faced with one of those "good problems" coaches often reference.
Either way, if the Steelers choose to use Johnson in an H-Back role until they get healthy at tight end or if they intend to leave him be at fullback, be on the lookout for some sightings of the second-year player. Johnson is certainly in store for an expanded role with the team and could be in for a big year in 2013. Well, maybe a big year as far as fullbacks are concerned.
Dan Snyder, a 2012 graduate of Temple University, has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers for over a year now. His work has been published on mainstream sports media sites such as the Bleacher Report. Follow Dan on Twitter @dsnyder34 .
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