Chris Johnson only could play six snaps for the Ravens, but he emphatically introduced himself to the Pittsburgh Steelers on the first one.
Leading 7-0 after a stirring, 31-yard touchdown run by quarterback Byron Leftwich whipped the Heinz Field crowd into a frenzy, the Steelers were feeling good about their chances to add another score. Their defense had forced the Ravens to three plays and out on their first series to get the ball back for Leftwich.
Leftwich completed a 15-yard pass to Mike Wallace on third-and-10, but Johnson made a game-changing hit. He stripped Wallace to force a fumble that was recovered by Ed Reed, who returned the ball to Pittsburgh’s 12.
Justin Tucker made a 26-yard field goal to trim the lead to 7-3 for Baltimore, but Johnson set a tone that would remain even after Johnson departed in the second quarter because of a hamstring injury.
"I’ve been doing this for a long time. I drive myself on making plays," said Johnson, a ninth-year free agent who was signed by the Ravens last week after cornerback Jimmy Smith had to undergo surgery to repair a groin tear. "In the offseason I take boxing lessons. That’s a jab for me. Once I saw him cut across my face I just wanted to get a straight hand in there and I knew I’d knock the ball out."
Despite the lack of practice time, Johnson was used in the nickel package ahead of Chykie Brown, who filled that role during last week’s 55-20 win vs. the Oakland Raiders. Corey Graham started at cornerback for Smith.
"I just prepared myself all week to be able to be in there. I haven’t played football in a long time. I knew it was a possibility," said Johnson, who attributed his injury to leaping and coming down awkwardly to tweak his hamstring. "A lot of running. Sometimes you get fatigued. I’m going to go get some treatment and I’ll be ready for San Diego."