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Kyron Johnson Looking for More than Special Teams in 2024

Pittsburgh Steelers OLB Kyron Johnson can’t wait to showcase his edge rushing abilities in hopes of earning defensive snaps in 2024.

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Steelers Kyron Johnson
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Kyron Johnson at Steelers OTAs on May 28, 2024 -- Ed Thompson // Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed outside linebacker Kyron Johnson as a practice squad addition last season but he quickly found himself elevated to the active roster and managed to stick around by playing special teams. After his elevation to the active roster in late December, Johnson played 100 special team snaps throughout the remainder of the season.

Now with a full offseason under his belt, Johnson is now comfortable with the defense and is looking to contribute in a bigger way this season.

“I feel real comfortable in everything,” Johnson told reporters at the Steelers mandatory minicamp. “With the defense, it is simple so it is not much to think on, we are mainly rushers until we’re not. It is simple. I like it. It is like the role is just perfect for me. I am acclimated to it.”

While at OTAs and minicamp, the players are not in pads and limits what the outside linebackers can showcase. For Johnson, he takes that time to work on his hands which allows him to have new moves to try come training camp.

“As of right now, while we are in minicamp and not in any pads, we emphasis on hands,” Johnson said. “It is basically [helping] put more into my toolbox. Just like, being able to do a two-hand swipe, cross-chop, dip-rip, all of that. It is just all tools to put into your toolbox so when fall comes, put it all together.”

While that is nice and all, Johnson still wants to show the coaches what he improved on and how he can contribute this upcoming season but that will have to wait until the pads come on at St. Vincent College in July.

“I can’t wait to get in them damn pads,” Johnson said. “I really want to display my speed and power rush. Right now, we are just working hands so we can’t really display what you want. It gives you football-like material, like Mike [Tomlin] tells us, it is football-like. I can’t wait to get in them pads.”

While the Steelers have only deployed him as a special teams guy, Johnson is a speedy pass rusher. Running a 4.4 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 2021 showcased the speed that he can use. Johnson’s problem is that he is just 6-foot but according to him, that is actually his advantage when it comes to pass rushing.

“My key is that I am shorter,” Johnson explained. “They take me as a disadvantage but really it is an advantage because I am so quick to get underneath and around [the edge.]”

Johnson cited shorter edge rushers that he played with that found success and explained how the “little guys” can beat the huge tackles that they face in today’s game.

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall,” Johnson said. “With us, it is our job to have pad level. So for the little guys like me, Bryce Huff, Haason [Reddick,] Nick Herbig, we aren’t freakishly tall, but we damn sure will get under a pad and knock you back.”

The new kickoff rules will help Johnson stay on the team in 2024 as he can use his speed to his advantage. Given his time on the team last season, Johnson should have the edge over guys like Jeremiah Moon and Julius Welschof when it comes to making the 53-man roster.

53 • Kyron Johnson, Outside Linebacker, Kansas
6-foot-0, 235 pounds, 25 years old, 3rd Season

Acquired: The Steelers signed Kyron Johnson to their practice squad on Oct. 9, 2023. This came after Johnson was released by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Last SeasonAfter being signed to the practice squad in October, Johnson was elevated to the team’s active roster on Dec. 22, 2023, and stayed there for the rest of the season. He appeared in six games for the Steelers, playing one defensive snap and 100 special teams snaps, but did not record any official stats.

Steelers Kyron Johnson

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Kyron Johnson warms up before a game against the New England Patriots on Dec. 7, 2023 — Ed Thompson // Steelers Now

CareerThe Philadelphia Eagles drafted Kyron Johnson in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. In 16 games as a rookie, Johnson played 265 special teams snaps and 18 defensive snaps for the Eagles. He recorded eight tackles in his first full season as a professional.

In 2023, the Eagles placed Johnson on their practice squad but then released him a month later.

Year Team GP Tackles TFLs Sacks
2022 PHI 16 8 0 0
2023 PIT 6 0 0 0

CollegeKyron Johnson decided to become a Jayhawk and committed to Kansas for his collegiate football. As a true freshman, Johnson appeared in 12 games as he played defense and special teams. In 12 games, he tallied 17 tackles, a forced fumble and contributed for a tackle for a loss.

As a true sophomore, Johnson played in 12 games and received seven starts as he recorded 16 tackles, four for a loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

Johnson’s playing time shot up in 2019 as he started all 12 games at linebacker for the Jayhawks. In his 12 starts that year, Johnson accumulated 55 combined tackles and one sack. He finished fifth on the team in tackles and third on the team with 5.5 tackles for loss.

In 2020, Johnson started eight of his nine games played at linebacker. Recording 42 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble, Johnson earned honorable mention as a linebacker in the Big-12.

Johnson decided to return to college in 2021 for his “super senior” campaign. He started all 12 games and recorded a career year. Johnson set career highs in tackles (61), tackles for loss (7.5), sacks (5.5), and forced fumbles (4). He was named to the second-team All-Big 12 by the league’s coaches.

In his five seasons at Kansas, Johnson played in 57 career games and started 39 of them. He totaled 191 combined tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles.

Year GP GS Tackles TFLs Sacks FFs
2017 12 0 17 0.5 0 1
2018 12 7 16 4.0 2 2
2019 12 12 55 5.5 1 0
2020 9 8 42 4.5 3 1
2021 12 12 61 7.5 5.5 4

Salary cap and future: Johnson is entering a contract year with the Steelers. In 2024, Johnson will cost $985,000 against the Steelers cap space. With it being all base salary, the Steelers could release him and not incur any dead money. If he stays on the team throughout the season, Johnson will become a free agent next offseason.

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