Jonathan Dwyer Has Done Enough To Earn Starter Consideration

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.

  • Steve Duncan

    I agree, but I am not sure how much it matters who starts. I think they will both split carries pretty closely either way.

    The bigger question for me is whether he makes them wonder when Mendenhall gets back.

  • TJimmy

    Remember that most of those stats were not earned while running against first string defenses, and Tomlin said tonight that he needs to continue his development.

  • neithborhooddrunk

    Dwyer doesn’t need to start, but receive the bulk of the carries. Since he is a better RB than Redman.

  • i’ve like dwyer coming out of college. he’s a very intriguing back. his footwork reminds me of bettis. not saying on same caliber as the bus, but i’ve seen glimpses. if he continues to add strenth to his lower body he could become a great feature back for the steelers.

  • Pete

    I don’t think you start Dwyer over Redman unless Redman has an injury. What I’d say is that Dwyer cemented his position behind Redman. Redman has proven he’s an excellent back and deserves the start in the absence of Mendenhall. Dwyer performed well this preseason and has shown flashes the few times he’s carried the ball during the regular season. The Steelers will have no problems at the RB position.

    Even if Redman tears it up, when Mendenhall returns healthy, Mendenhall should be #1, Redman #2, and Dwyer #3. And I’m a Redman fan. In my world I’d love to see the Steelers use Mendenhall and Redman the way the Giants use their backs. But I know the Steelers will never do that and Mendenhall will be the feature back.