Former Steelers 1st-Round Pick Dead at 50, Investigation ‘Now Underway’: Report

Charles Johnson

Stephen Dunn/Allsport Wide receiver Charles Johnson of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Arrowhead Stadium.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Charles Johnson has died at the age of 50, with CBS-17 in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. the first to report the news on the evening of Tuesday July 19. Another Raleigh-Durham television station, ABC-11 (WTVD), has since indicated that “an investigation into Johnson’s cause of death is now underway,” with the former Super Bowl champion having been found dead at an area hotel.

“Raleigh police were called to a hotel on Spring Forest Road on Sunday afternoon,” related ABC-11 early on the morning of July 20.

Charles Johnson Worked at a Wake Forest High School

CBS-17 notes that Johnson was employed as assistant athletic director at Heritage High School, a public school in Wake Forest, N.C., where former Steelers cornerback Dewayne Washington served as head football coach for three seasons (2015-17) and ex-Steelers running back ‘Fast’ Willie Parker worked as one of Washington’s assistants. Washington and Johnson were Steelers teammates for one year, in 1998, which was Washington’s first year with the club and Johnson’s last season with the black & gold.

On Tuesday, the official account of Heritage Huskies football tweeted out a message, saying, “RIP coach. You will be missed by so many, especially your Husky Family.”

Former Steelers beat reporter Ed Bouchette also tweeted about the sad news, calling Johnson “among the nicest players I covered.”

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Johnson Was Pittsburgh’s 1st-Round Pick in 1994

The Steelers drafted Charles Johnson No. 17 overall in 1994 out of the University of Colorado, during an era when the Steelers regularly used high draft picks on players from the school.

Recall that the Steelers selected Colorado Buffaloes stars in the 1st- and 2nd-rounds of the 1993 draft, with cornerback Deon Figures taken No. 23 overall and outside linebacker Chad Brown going off the board No. 44 overall. In 1995, Kordell Stewart was a 2nd-round selection out of Colorado and eventually developed into Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback, having spent the first two years of his NFL career playing a wide receiver/running back/quarterback role.

Johnson played for the Steelers for five years before spending two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and one with the New England Patriots. He closed out his career with the Buffalo Bills in 2002.

And while Johnson won a Super Bowl ring with the Tom Brady-led Patriots in 2001, the most productive campaigns of his professional career came during his time with the Steelers. He had arguably his best season in 1996, when he caught 60 passes for 1,008 yards and three touchdowns. He also thrived in 1998 when he had 65 receptions for 815 yards and seven touchdowns, with the seven TDs tied for a career high that he reached again with the Eagles in 2000.

All told, Johnson started 58 of the 76 games he played for the Steelers, catching a total of 247 passes for 3,400 yards and 15 touchdowns. He finished his NFL journey with a total of 354 receptions for 4,606 yards and 24 touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference.

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