Potential Emergence Of Jonathan Dwyer Could Be Massive For The Steelers

By Cian Fahey

During his very short career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, running back Jonathan Dwyer has accumulated 151 yards on only 25 carries. Dwyer has been a professional for two years now, but his chance to see significant time on the field hasn\’t come about until this season.

Dwyer seemingly plans to take that opportunity as he has lost 20 pounds from his previous high of 240. Dwyer\’s weight has always been his issue. In fact, it is likely the only reason he is playing for the Steelers. In the 2010 draft, he slid to the sixth round after turning up to the NFL combine out of shape.

Once a Steelers player, things didn\’t change as he was out of shape for his first training camp, and despite a career long rush of 76 yards, he has never looked like an NFL running back when he\’s been on the field. Slimming down and toning can have a major affect on the fortunes of a running back.

Arguably the best running back in the NFL right now, Arian Foster, went undrafted in 2009 before spending his rookie season focusing on conditioning. Foster showed flashes towards the end of his rookie season, before posting 1,616 rushing yards in his second year.

Dwyer is entering his third season, and there is little chance that he is anywhere near the back that Foster is, but he is still only going to be 23 years old when this season begins. That is the same age that Foster was when he broke out.

The Steelers are fortunate that even without Rashard Mendenhall, they do not need to rely on Dwyer to perform this year. However, if Dwyer does turn into a respectable runner and backup for Isaac Redman, then the Steelers would be spoiled for choice across their offensive depth chart.

Dwyer is similar to Redman, but the potential to be an even more explosive runner is there. If he has indeed slimmed down then he should be faster. He showed a burst at Georgia Tech as the fullback in a triple option offense which is what attracted the Steelers to him in the first place.

Because the Steelers\’ offensive line is expected to be improved as a run blocking unit, two hard runners such as Redman and Dwyer could be made to look a lot better than they actually are. When you have two other backs such as Chris Rainey and Baron Batch to handle the roles in the passing attack, the Steelers backfield suddenly becomes very strong and deep even without Mendenhall.

Of course, once Mendenhall returns, he will demand carries if he is fully healthy. However, with two backs capable of wearing down defenses, there would be no reason to rush Mendenhall back onto the field. As good as Redman is in some people\’s eyes, very few backs in today\’s NFL are capable of carrying the load on their own. If Redman was asked to lead the team\’s rushing attack for 16 games in a season he could possibly break down, but if Dwyer is there to complement him, the duo could share the burden all the way into the playoffs.

You can follow Cian on Twitter at @Cianaf

  • Chris92021

    Do not be surprised if Dwyer ends up the starter in week 1 at Denver. This isn’t an indictment against Isaac Redman, but Dwyer has more talent than Redman. Unlike Redman though, Dwyer’s focus and dedication has been questioned. If Dwyer is indeed in shape, he will emerge as the best RB on the team until Mendenhall comes back (if he even does).

  • JohnnyV1

    Arian Foster is a special RB, Jonathan Dwyer is not. I am happy Dwyer is getting off his talented, but lazy, butt to get into shape for the 2012 season. He can certainly help the team. He will never own the NFL rushing title.

  • SteelersDepot

    I just do not see this happening unless Redman is injured.

  • KeithKam

    I understand they’re all very inexperienced, with the exception of Redman, but it looks to me like Dwyer, Batch and Rainey all have some potential to be solid (if not great) NFL RB’s. I’d be suprised if at least 2 of them don’t pan out.

  • Chris92021

    I admit I am biased. I live in the ATL area and saw Dwyer first hand at Kell High School and Georgia Tech. The kid is a beast when properly motivated. He should have been cut the last two years for coming into camp out of shape but he managed to stay on mostly on talent. I love Redman because he’s a worker but I think we are asking too much of Redman if he is asked to carry bulk of the load for majority of the season.

  • No mention of testing positive at the Combine affecting his stock? Yes, the conditioning was a bigger part of it, but the amphetamine test (though later absolved) also scared teams off at the time. IMO, both go hand in hand with getting his head on straight. He needed to do that before the focus was there, and now he seems to have done it. I am looking forward to see what he can do if he keeps it up.

  • Clint Martin

    None of steelers backs are Foster like! Lets face it.
    Especially not Dwyer. Redman has a different running style than foster.

  • Would be nice to have a 23yr old #36 “Bus” to drive through the ratbirds once again..

  • Shannon Stephenson

    People seem to forget that some sources had Dwyer as a potential 1st rounder! He has loads of talent and like Chris said his focus and dedication seems to be here as well…I do agree with Dave that at the moment Redman is the man to beat but I feel Dwyer has the ability to do it.

  • mch5152psu

    I think sources would now have Dwyer going undrafted if they knew it would take him this long to get into shape