BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Left guard Joel Bitonio and running back Duke Johnson took home the seasonal awards from the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association of America Wednesday.
In what has been the worst season in franchise history, both Johnson and Bitonio have distinguished themselves in 2017 earning them both my vote for the awards.
Bitonio was named the Dino Lucarelli ‘Good Guy Award’ winner for his cooperation with reporters and the positive manner with which he carries himself with his teammates and in the community.
“I appreciate that. I know I have been out of the running the last couple of years being on IR and stuff,” Bitonio said. “Joe Thomas kindly opened it up for me to have a chance this year. I let Dan know this morning if there was a media ‘Good Guy Award,’ I would have voted for all of you guys.”
After having to finish the previous 2 seasons on injured reserve due to foot injuries, Bitonio hasn’t missed a single snap in 2017.
Johnson, who leads the team in catches with 68 to establish a new franchise record for a running back as well as 618 receiving yards, was named the ‘Player of the Year.’ The 2015 third-round pick also has 328 rushing yards to go with 6 touchdowns – 3 receiving and 3 rushing – and his 6.6 yards per touch (run or receiving) ranks third among NFL backs in 2017.
“It is great. I appreciate it, especially from the outside looking in to have my performance be recognized,” Johnson said. “Just trying to follow it up with another good performance this last game and try to help us get a win.”
Johnson joined Herschel Walker (1986-88) as the only NFL running backs to record 500 receiving yards in each of their ﬁrst 3 seasons and his 1,666 career receiving yards are the fifth-most by an NFL running back through his first 3 seasons. Johnson is the only NFL running back with at least 50 catches in each of the past 3 seasons and since 2015, he ranks first in receiving yards (1,666) and third in receptions (184) among all NFL running backs.
“This is the organization that gave me my shot, drafted me in the 3rd round. A lot of teams passed on me but this team took me,” Johnson said. “I would love nothing more than to start and finish my career here.”
No Mercy – Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin isn’t wasting any time or energy feeling sorry for head coach Hue Jackson and the 0-15 Browns.
“I am not going to be disrespectful to them in anyway by feeling empathy or things of that nature,” Tomlin said during his conference call with Cleveland reporters Wednesday afternoon. “We are all fighting week in and week out to win. I am sure they still are. That is just how it goes in our business.”
Tomlin remains unsure if he will play his starters Sunday with the Steelers in the running to potentially secure home field advantage through the AFC playoffs and he won’t make up his mind until the end of the week.
“That is really undecided and really unimportant, really, at the beginning of the week for us,” Tomlin said. “More important than anything is that we lay a foundation of our plan and get going in terms of the things we need to do to perform well. Some of that stuff can be 11th-hour decision making. That has kind of always been our mentality regarding that.”
Injury Report – DNP: CB Jamar Taylor (foot), RB Matthew Dayes (knee), FB Danny Vitale (groin); LIMITED: CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee), WR Sammie Coates (shoulder), RB Isaiah Crowell (shoulder/ribs), RB Duke Johnson (shoulder), C JC Tretter (knee), CB Derron Smith (hip).