Through two preseason games, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer has stuck out above the rest. Coming off of a shoulder injury suffered in the first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Dwyer carried the ball 8 times for 43 yards Sunday night in the Steelers 26-24 win against the Indianapolis Colts.
Before suffering his sprained AC joint against the Eagles, Dwyer carried twice for 40 yards. The injury limited the third year running back in practice at the start of last week, but he was able to practice fully at the end of it. That toughness will not be ignored by the coaching staff and Dwyer is pushing the currently sidelined starter Isaac Redman hard on the depth chart.
Dwyer is not only running well between the tackles, but is also continuing to progress in his blitz recognition and pickup in addition. That trait was evidence Sunday night against the Colts during the Steelers fourth offensive series as Dwyer picked up a linebacker on a Colts blitz. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was pressured on the play by a blitzing safety that was missed being picked off by center Maurkice Pouncey, but the effort and execution by Dwyer on the play will be regarded as a positive.
Dwyer worked hard this offseason down in Florida to dump the reputation he had earned of showing up at training camp out of shape and over weight. It certainly appears that he got the message that Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert sent him in a radio interview this past offseason. Dwyer was noted by many in the media over the last few weeks as looking both lighter and faster, and thus far those observations have shown up on the game tape of the Steelers first two preseason games.
The Steelers running back situation to start the season in Denver remains a bit cloudy right now with Redman sidelined by a hip/groin injury and Rashard Mendenhall just being removed from the PUP list this past Friday. While Mendenhall could progress fast enough to be ready by the Denver game, it would be pushing it. A realistic time frame for Mendenhall to return and contribute would likely be after the Steelers week 4 bye. Should that wind up being the case, Dwyer would likely back up Redman early on in the season.
Should Redman remain sidelined the rest of the preseason, Dwyer would have the door open to him to claim the starting job with a couple of more nice performances in the Steelers remaining two preseason games. He has quietly had a great training camp and hopefully it carries on now into the regular season.