But the Steelers tipped their hand oh-so-early that this was still the preseason.
Their second play was a play-action bootleg on which Roethlisberger hit Johnson for 17 yards.
It was the same personnel group and the same play … almost.
"Different plays but they were set up for (Johnson)," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said following the Steelers' 34-16 win. "One was a trap-looking play and the other was a zone-looking play and they flew to the ball (fake) like we knew they would."
Of course, had this been the regular season we know the Steelers would never have run the same play, or almost the same play, twice in a row.
Or would they?
"We actually had a few more in a row to go," Arians said of the play-action bootleg stuff that momentarily turned Johnson into Mike Ditka, "but we scored too fast."
* Negatives for the offense, according to Arians, were the Byron Leftwich injury, too many hits on Ben Roethlisberger, and the first-team offense only getting nine rushing attempts and 15 rushing yards in the first half.
The running-game thing wasn't so much a negative as it was a matter of circumstance.
"We really didn't get a chance to run the ball with our guys because we were making too many big plays," Arians said.
Nice to see Butler healthy enough to play, but this might have been a case of too little, too late.
Butler also wound up replacing Keenan "Ivory" Lewis with the first-team defense after Lewis went out with a knee injury.
This might have been a case of too much, too soon for Butler, although his blitz pressure late in the second quarter helped preserve the lead by forcing an incompletion and producing a field-goal attempt.
The 95-yard pick six was spectacular, but it might have meant more had it come against "Matty Ice" rather than Chris Redman.
* Lewis, by the way, wasn't at fault on the 22-yard gain to the Steelers' 5-yard line to an uncovered Roddy White.
It was zone coverage and William Gay was the guy who wasn't where he should have been.
* Tyler Grisham saw action on the kickoff return team the second time the Steelers received.
That foray into special teams might also be a case of too little, too late for Grisham, who still has practice-squad eligibility.
Grisham was out there with the varsity on kickoff return because Lewis wasn't.
Grisham also got a shot with the JV kickoff team, for whatever that will be worth (a spot on the practice squad, probably).
* Best press box announcement of the preseason: "Coverage by Lewis & Clark."
* Daniel Sepulveda's first punt was supported in coverage by a linebacker who at the outset of the Atlanta "dress rehearsal" week was the recipient of a six-year, $50 million contract.
That's one of the things Lawrence Timmons does.
* Returning interceptions for touchdowns apparently isn't one of the things Timmons does, at least not yet.
He came close on that pass Matt Ryan threw off No. 81's head, collecting the carom and rumbling 44 yards to the Atlanta 4-yard line before being caught from behind.
Timmons will hear about that from the rest of the defense until well after he's tired of hearing about it.
* The Steelers settled for three after the Timmons pick, in part because they tried Rashard Mendenhall for no gain, a flanker screen to Hines Ward that had no chance and finally the "Bronko Package" from the 2 (Mendenhall for no gain again; he had scored untouched from the 1 with blocking help from Doug Legursky and three tight ends at the conclusion of the Steelers' first possession).
Arians acknowledged emotion played a part in the failure of the second "Bronko Package" attempt.
"Tried to make a little statement," he said. "That was probably too far. They adjusted; good for them."
Had this been an actual regular-season game we can only hope the Steelers would have tried Heath Miller at least once with three cracks at it from inside the 5.
* Had this been an actual regular-season game I'd also be taking Mike Tomlin to task for kicking a field goal from the 2 in a game he was already leading 7-0 with 7:03 left in the first quarter.
* Atlanta's array of playmakers ran around, through or away from James Farrior, Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, among others, at times while amassing 266 net yards in the first half. And the Falcons should have had four more points based on that absolutely perfect bomb Ryan launched into the end zone and Jones dropped. The Falcons wound up settling for three on the drive, but given that throw to Jones I won't question Ryan's arm again.
Falcons OC Mike Mularkey's going to have a lot of fun with that offense this season. And Atlanta's going to do its share of damage.