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David Johnson, Trai Essex to be Steelers in 2012

Steelers’ veteran offensive lineman Trai Essex announced today via his Twitter account that he will be back with the Steelers  for this upcoming season. Essex played in all 16 games last season and is exactly the type of versatile offensive lineman coveted by offensive line coach Sean Kugler. Essex can play all five positions along the front line but filled in especially at Guard and Center last year. With the ankle problems that Maurkice Pouncey battled through and the knee problems of Chris Kemoeatu, he saw significant action including 3 starts.

Popular consensus is that Essex likely signed a 1 yr. deal, probably for the veteran minimum. Assuming that’s the case it’s obviously a very cap friendly deal for an experienced lineman. He’ll join Doug Legursky as the top reserves on the line heading into next season; depending on who else the Steelers draft. If you follow his twitter account, @TraiDay79 you’ve probably noticed that Essex has taken this offseason seriously and has lost a lot of weight. He looks to have seriously trimmed down which should help his bid to make the final roster and improve his performance when his name is called.

Also remaining a Pittsburgh Steeler is tight end/H-back David Johnson who signed a $1.26 million dollar deal for one year. The re-signing of Johnson is a bit surprising considering the signing earlier this week of another guy who fits the same mold in Leonard Pope. Both can play tight end in place of Heath Miller but speculation is that each would be used more as the H-back/FB mode. A lot of that will depend on the direction of Todd Haley’s new offense.

Johnson signing his tender puts him in the mix for what will likely be 3 TE spots the Steelers will carry for 2012. Heath Miller is an obvious shoe in to keep his job. Newly aquired Leonard Pope has probably been penciled in as the primary backup and then both Weslye Saunders and Johnson will fight it out for the final spot.

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