Pittsburgh Steelers third year running back Jonathan Dwyer certainly is making a case as to why he, and not Isaac Redman, should be the starter when the team takes on the Denver Broncos in the season opener one week from this coming Sunday.
Dwyer capped off a fantastic preseason Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers by rushing for 63 yards on 13 carries and ran like a man who was possessed. The former sixth round draft pick finished the preseason with 147 yards rushing on 28 carries. Against the Panthers Thursday night, Dwyer ran looking for contact as he ripped off runs of 12, 14 and 18 yards in the first half of the game.
Running with the football was not the only thing that Dwyer showed that he could do during the preseason as he also caught 4 passes for 46 yards, with the biggest catch coming last Saturday night against the Buffalo Bills on a 3rd down and 9 play from the Steelers own 3 yard-line with 1:36 left to go in the first half.
On the play quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit the Georgia Tech product with a back shoulder type throw down the left sideline that Dwyer adjusted perfectly to. The catch kept the Steelers drive alive and allowed the offense to work on the hurry-up portion of their game.
If the running and pass catching of Dwyer was not enough evidence that he is turning into a complete running back deserving consideration of the starting job, he also has looked spectacular in pass protection. Last week against the Bills Dwyer had a key block on an oncoming free rusher on the long touchdown pass from Byron Leftwich to Antonio Brown. Dwyer has shown up all preseason with his ability to pick up blitzers and that likely hasn\’t gone unnoticed by the Steelers coaching staff.
Dwyer is trying his best to unseat Redman as the starter, who was forced to sit out his second game of the preseason Thursday night with an ankle injury he suffered last week against the Bills. Redman also has been dealing with a minor hip injury that has led to him carrying 17 times for 38 yards in two preseason games.
The Steelers will likely open the season in Denver without their normal starter Rashard Mendenhall, who is still working his way back from the torn ACL he suffered in the regular season finale last year against the Cleveland Browns. Mendenhall has been removed from the PUP list earlier than what was expected, though, and has resumed practicing.
Should Redman wind up getting the starting nod in Denver, Dwyer will be hard to keep off of the field regardless. Don\’t be surprised if his body of work during the preseason, combined with him fighting through a shoulder injury, doesn\’t earn him a good dozen carries in the Mile High City, and don\’t be shocked if he even winds up starting. He has earned it.