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.