Jonathan Dwyer: Leaner Doesn’t Mean Starter, Or Even A Roster Spot

By Jeremy Hritz

Could Jonathan Dwyer end up being the starter at running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers? The recent report out of camp says that he has shed all of the excess weight that he was carrying during OTAs that caused Mike Tomlin to see red. However, Dwyer isn’t about to get complacent, and he is aiming to weigh 225 pounds by the start of the first preseason game against on August 10th.

Considering his preparation and the progress that he has made, has Dwyer asserted himself as a viable candidate to win the starting job?

There were games last season where Dwyer looked like the real deal, especially in back-to-back games against Cincinnati and Washington, when he rushed for 122 and 107 yards respectively, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. After his strong performances, his stocked was rising, and there was confidence in Dwyer as the starter for the remainder of the season. Some in the media even took it as far as referring to Dwyer as the “mini-bus” for his physical, stubborn running style.

It was a bit premature.

The buzz kill wasn’t too far off, as Dwyer failed to eclipse 100 yards in a game for the rest of the season, and the momentum that he established against Washington abruptly ended due to a quad injury that kept him out the following week against the Giants. What also cannot be overlooked in Dwyer’s regression were the many injuries to the offensive line that disrupted it from achieving any continuity and cohesiveness.

While Dwyer, according to himself, may be in the best shape of his short career and has stated that he desires “to be among the elite” of NFL running backs, he is still facing one hell of a battle to be the starter for the Steelers.

Dwyer first has to show that he can outdo rookie Le’Veon Bell, who the Steelers drafted early with the intention of him filling the role of bell cow, and veteran Isaac Redman, who arrived at camp leaner as well.

Additionally, despite the fact that Dwyer is in excellent condition for camp, the reality is that he continues to struggle with conditioning issues, despite being addressed about it before in previous seasons by the coaching staff. If Dwyer truly wanted to be an elite running back in the NFL, wouldn’t his training be focused more on developing the skills necessary to being an elite running back and not losing weight? Do you think that Adrian Peterson is focused on losing weight one to two months out from training camp.

While Dwyer still has the opportunity to remain with the Steelers and potentially begin the season as the starting running back, his behavior leading up to camp, like his performance last season, has been inconsistent, and that is not what the team needs at a position that they are seeking massive improvement. Dwyer must show that he is committed to being a year-round professional, not a procrastinator who puts in his work at the last minute.

Regardless of his current conditioning, Dwyer still has a long way to go before he is even a lock for the roster, let alone the team’s featured runner.

And whether or not his weight going down on the scale results in his position on the depth going up is just another story to follow closely during this year’s edition of Camp Tomlin.

  • steeltown

    Lets not forget in addition to the many OL injuries that occurred, after Ben’s injury Defenses were not afraid to stack the box with Lefty and Charlie Batch behind Center, that didn’t help Dwyer (or Redman)

    Obviously all of the RBs have the ‘want to’ to be the starter, but in all reality its only a matter of time before Le’veon is the full time starter, so Dwyer is battling to be the #2, he may never be ‘elite’ but he doesn’t have to be, he just needs to produce if/when his number is called and he has shown he is capable of that. If they truly plan on keeping only one (Redman or Dwyer) then preseason should be exciting to watch… unless injury makes the decision easy for the coaches

  • Luke Shabro

    I’d actually be ok if we kept Dwyer. I don’t think he’s been too bad in spot duty. He’s not a closer like Bus was but he’s not awful in a pinch. Just not a guy you want to have 200-300 carries in a season. Maybe we end up keeping 5 RB’s. Batch could be a surprise cut but I hope not.

  • VaDave

    With Redman and Dwyer and their contracts totaling $2.6 mill, and that they are pretty much similar in what they bring to the team, one or the other of them has got to go, unless there are injuries. IMO ( for whatever that’s worth), for Dwyer to make the team, he’s got to be the # 1 back. The FO is not going to pay him $1.3 million to sit on the bench as he doesn’t play special teams. Redman does.

  • westcoasteeler

    All that it means, when Dwyer and Red come into camp looking lean and ready to play, is that Bell is going to have to win the job. If Bell doesn’t win the job, then someone else has. No one is going to be handed anything.

  • steeltown

    I’d be ok with keeping both Redman and Dwyer this season while Le’veon is a rookie, then in the offseason you give an extension to whomever proved his worth

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Injuries always occur at RB. All 3 are roster locks and two play on Sunday.

  • Matt Searls

    Why was he 265 to begin with?

  • Sports

    A lot of player gain weight during the off season, if you didn’t know that it’s doesnt matter what they are doing on the off season it’s what they are when it’s time to go to work. Dwyer ready to work if your one of those Dwyer hater get ready to eat crow.

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    Redman has always been a fan favorite and for obvious reasons, but Dwyer did and perhaps still does have elite potential. If this potential isn’t realized soon, however, he may be working elsewhere and that would suck.

  • Douglas Andrews

    It will be interesting to see Dwyer run behind a good O Line. He looked pretty good for two games with the “moving parts” O line. Now given the opportunity to run behind a set O line with the new running scheme it does favor Dwyer’s running style over Redman as he does have the ability to bounce it outside for the big run. Showing up to camp lighter should help both backs so may the best RB win. I’m going with Dwyer I really like what he showed last year. Just wish he would take his career seriously.

  • dgh57

    No, Dwyer isn’t a closer like Bettis but sometimes I think he wants to be like him being that he showed up at the OTAs at 260+ pds! Just kidding!!

  • Luke Shabro

    Eating too many cheeseburgers as DB always says. Time to mix in a few salads. The kid does have decent feet for being hefty

  • Pete

    I really don’t think Dwyer is going anywhere. Drafting Belle has put the fire under Redman, Dwyer and Belle. What a competition back there! I think whatever the makeup of the unit come September, we are going to see a great running game assuming the O line is healthy. I can’t wait!

  • cencalsteeler

    I agree with everything you said. I feel it’s unfair to judge both Redman and Dwyers performance based on last years troubles. If they remain on the team, this season should show us their true capabilities (barring no injuries).

  • Matt Searls

    30 pounds of weight loss in a short period of time is unhealthy and could effect his conditioning. I don’t hate Dwyer at all. Also I don’t like to eat crows.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    As a guy who has been behind Dwyer I can no longer keep backing him. It is obvious he doesn’t get it. He is very talented but he doesnt want to do what it takes to be a everydown NFL back.

  • charles

    Good comments here. First Colbert etal like to draft competition: Paulson even though we had Miller, Williams even though we are loaded at ILB, field goal kickers and punters. 2 Our running game problems were not the backs. 3 Haley wants a back who can slow up Suggs or Von Miller with authority and then still be a third read for Ben. I am just not ready to annoint Bell the starter or starter to be before he has even had one carry in the NFL yet. Redman came to camp ready. At 225 he could be giving us the Steeler version of Jamaal Charles. I wonder what his ten yard dash speed is. Finally, if we just assume for a minute that Dwyer really does have good feet and good vision, then one has to figure that the ZBS is just the type of offensive philosophy that suits him. No matter, if our Oline has no consistency then neither will our run game….

  • Douglas Andrews

    Hopefully we don’t see the injury bug on the O line either…fingers crossed!

  • mhurk

    Dwyer is young, talented, healthy, in shape, and relatively cheap, I’ve seen Him excel in running, blocking and receiving. IMHO it would be foolish to let Him go, Bell, Dwyer, & Redman are 3 strong capable backs and You need 3 backs cause injuries do happen. Howlings makes it as a KR, Batch is the odd man out.