Jonathan Dwyer Focused On Offseason Conditioning And Starting In 2013

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer has another mouth to feed after his first child was born on Wednesday, but that wont slow down the former sixth round draft pick out of Georgia Tech from focusing on his offseason preparations in hopes that he will be the starting running back in 2013 for the black and gold.

“Any running back wants to be the feature guy,” Dwyer told Teresa Varley of “The situation we were in last year, we couldn’t just sit one of us. We all bring something different to the team, to the running and passing game, all aspects of it. I just have to work even harder than I did before to have that opportunity to start again. I have to be a better player and do everything I can to help the team win.”

Dwyer was the Steelers leading rusher last season, but that doesn\’t mean much because the team used a week-to-week approach at the running back position which resulted in him carrying the football only 156 times for 623 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did manage to start 6 games, however, with the Steelers winning 4 of those.

Dwyer started the season as the backup to Isaac Redman as Rashard Mendenhall was still recovering from his knee injury suffered in the 2011 season finale. His fumble in the Week 3 game against the Oakland Raiders resulted in him being put in the dog house and he was gameday inactive for the next three games as a result.

It was not until the week 7 game against the Cincinnati Bengals when Dwyer finally saw the field again. He started that game because both Redman and Mendenhall were injured and rushed for 122 yards on 17 carries in the win. That performance earned him the start the following week against the Washington Redskins where he carried the ball for 17 times once again for 107 yards. Late in the game, however, he injured his quad which resulted in him missing the next game and losing the starter job.

Dwyer closed out the final three games as the starter but only rushed for a total of 113 yards in those games on 34 carries.

Dwyer told Varley that he definitely saw improvement in his game last year, and especially in the passing game.

It has seemed that offseason conditioning has always been a problem for Dwyer during his first three years in the league, but he is intent on focusing on it even more this year. He is telling the truth as his recognition and pass protection has improved immensely since his first year in the league. Last season he allowed just 1 quarterback pressure in 151 pass plays that he was in the game for.

“I know I can be better conditioned,” Dwyer told Varley. “That is one of the big things right now. I think you underestimate it and then realize the season is long and takes a toll on your body. You have to be in the best shape you possibly can. That is the only way you are going to make it through.”

Dwyer, who will likely be restricted tendered in the next few weeks, will likely be given every opportunity to compete for the starting job during training camp. Even though Mendenhall is likely to leave via free agency, and Chris Rainey has long been waived, Dwyer will likely have Redman, Baron Batch and drafted rookie to compete against for the job.

The Steelers are also expected to implement more of the zone blocking scheme next season now that Jack Bicknell Jr. has been hired as the new offensive line coach to replace the departed Sean Kugler, so Dwyer will need to show that he can run effectively in that system.

Holding off a potential early round draft pick and the rest of the competition won\’t be easy, but Dwyer seems to be up for the challenge.

“It’s up to me if I can be that elite guy or just some average guy, Dwyer told Varley. “It’s going to be all up to me this offseason.”

  • Garrett Hunt

    I still like Dwyer. With better conditioning and ball security he deserves the starting spot.

  • steeltown

    Dwyer is better than most perceive

    He would be pretty cheap to sign long term, and between him and Redman you almost have to go Dwyer as he is almost 5yrs younger. He may never be the true #1, but he is a very very solid #2

  • Kyle Owens

    A nice “Feel Good” offseason piece. But if Dwyer is the starting running back next yr then all is lost.

  • zyzak

    Saying and doing are two different things, this guy is garbage

  • steeltown

    I have always like Dwyer… kid had two very productive yrs in college. He slipped in the draft due to the system he played in, no pass blocking and not much catching out of the backfield, plus his conditioning, BUT all of that can be corrected and he seems to be rising above. He was once pegged as the 3rd or 4th best RB in his draft class, according to Todd McShay of course he slipped in the draft and we grabbed him late, I for one am glad we did

    He’s only 23yrs old… I see him improving further in the upcoming season

  • I liked Dwyer better than Redman last year, and I think Dwyer is athletic enough to be an effective runner in the zone blocking scheme as long as he keeps his weight down. I’d rather let Redman go, but unless the Steelers plan on drafting a RB high, then signing him for another year is not a bad option. I just hope we can settle on one RB to start the season and not flip flop every game like we did last year.

  • steeltown

    Both bring about the same skill set. Redman will be 29yrs old this year, Dwyer will be 24yrs old… that would be the deciding factor for me

    Draft a RB in 2nd or 3rd Rd.. and sign Dwyer to a reasonably low multi year deal

  • WilliamSekinger

    I am left wondering why he is just now realizing he could be better conditioned. He very well knew he would have an increased role last year yet didn’t work on his conditioning to perpare? I liked him more than any of our other backs last year, but watching him take himself out every other play was frustrating to say the least.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Agree completely. Who knows, he could flourish with the new blocking scheme. I wonder what they ran at GT?

  • mlc43

    Dwyer is young and does posses enough skills to warrant keeping on the team. How high on the depth chart is up to him. He has a little to much “jiggle” in his game. Hopefully we draft a RB at some point in this draft that can compete for the starting job. Also, anyone blaming ALL of the running game woes on the RBs is flat out wrong. The OL wasn’t opening up holes at all in most of the games. I’m looking more forward to seeing what Bicknell does with this OLine than I am anything.

  • steeltown

    I’m pretty sure he trained a month with Tom Shaw last offseason. He’s only 23yrs old, if he can keep this mentality then he’ll be a productive player in the League

  • steeltown

    Agreed. Lets not forget last season he wasnt the starter initially, but when given the nod he had two consecutive 100+yd games before he injured his quad. With some more conditioning he’s a solid #2 guy for the future for sure

  • Ahmad

    I fully believe that if Dwyer can lose some more weight and get in better shape that he can fit in our new zone blocking scheme.

  • Ahmad

    Better late than never right?

  • Ahmad

    Triple threat option.

  • steeltown

    Yea, its frustrating to think of an athlete that has a problem with conditioning, I mean, you are an athlete! But, he wouldnt be the first and he surely wont be the last to struggle with it

  • Mike Carroll

    Dwyer’s long-term future with the team should be very much uncertain, sadly because the team still must question his desire to work and train to be a professional football player. You have to wonder if Dwyer realizes just how close he is to being out of the league if he continues to pull himself out of games after two carries. Maybe the light is coming on for him, but the Steelers cannot count on it. They probably will tender him, but I don’t think it’s a slam dunk decision for the team. It is encouraging that he’s improved his pass blocking since entering the league . Maybe he will take the next step and train as much as recommended this offseason.

  • Before extensive injuries across the line and to Ben, Dwyer showed he is capable of being the feature back. As Dave mentioned, his blitz pick up and pass blocking has improved. I am not ready to give up on him just yet.

  • Garrett Hunt

    I meant blocking scheme wise. Was it similar to a zone blocking method?

  • Pete

    It’s not as bleak as some would think. Dwyer and Redman are decent backs. The Giants did just fine with Bradshaw and Jacobs for some time splitting carries. Colbert just isn’t saying much about the run blocking of the O line last season which left a lot to be desired. This has been a problem for a number of years. The running will get better as they improve the O line. It will be tough to find a back who can make a mediocre run blocking O line look better.

  • alex

    go DWYER, go WOODLEY…become off season workout studs and prove all the naysayers wrong…then become the leaders we all need to succeed…

  • rob.pghsteelersfan

    Dwyer is a good bruising #2 back. No back on the team last season was a #1 tomlin and colbert know it and hopefully they can find the back the team needs in the draft. I also hope they know AB is not a #1 and find the big physical receiver the team needs. I do think AB is a good receiver and that he will have a long productive career with pittsburgh, just not as the #1 guy.