Jonathan Dwyer Taking A Liking To Short-Yardage Role

By Matthew Marczi

A few weeks back, I observed a certain trend in the way that the Pittsburgh Steelers began using running back Jonathan Dwyer, and speculated that the team was building a role for him as a short-yardage back.

That truly came to fruition in the team’s last game against the Buffalo Bills, particularly during the second quarter, when the Steelers handed the ball off to Dwyer on third and short three times.

Needless to say, he converted all three. They would not have kept feeding him the ball in those situations had he not. It was not the mere fact that he was successful in converting each opportunity that was most significant, however, but rather the way in which he was able to convert them.

The first opportunity came at the top of the second quarter on a third and one. The Steelers lined up in a heavy set to the left with both Mike Adams and Heath Miller at tight end to Kelvin Beachum’s left and fullback Will Johnson in the backfield shaded to the left.

The play went unsurprisingly to the left. With four Bills against three blockers, the odds didn’t seem favorable, but Dwyer somehow pushed his way through the traffic and, in fact, ended up with six yards instead of one because he kept churning his legs.

The second opportunity was even more notable, however, despite it being a two-yard gain on a third and one. Just a few plays later, the Steelers found themselves right back in the same situation as before. This time Adams and Miller lined up to the right, and Johnson remained to the left, though this time on the line.

The play went to the right side, and though multiple Bills had an opportunity to try to tackle him, Dwyer avoided their efforts, and kept his feet moving and his back to the line before spilling over for the first down.

The third and final conversion, though, was both the most interesting and perhaps the most impressive of the three. This time, the scenario was third and three, which very rarely draws a running play. With a heavy set to the left, Dwyer cut back all the way around right tackle for daylight and scampered on for an eight-yard gain.

Just last year, it was Dwyer coming out of the game as the feature back to allow Isaac Redman to convert these situations. Now he is the veteran and the leader in that running back meeting room, the one who gets the job done and leads by example.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Lamarr56

    I think Dwyer might have found his niche. He has carved out his own effective role in this offense that he excels at. I am now seeing him run with intensity and power now.

  • steeltown

    Dwyer is pretty damn quick for his size..and you can tell he is more decisive and direct with his runs. I love that this kid is coming around and proving that he should have never been cut.

  • Chad H

    He is looking great in this role. Possibly getting cut was the best thing because now he looks determined.

  • joed32

    I think he should have been cut, he was lazy and taking his job for granted. A few weeks of unemployment and no team showing any interest in him may have woke him up. He is playing with intensity now and I hope it stays that way but how will he react when he thinks he’s “safe” again.


    Most importantly, he held onto the ball.

  • steeltown

    I disagree.. did he come into camp overweight, yes, but so did Hampton and other great Steelers players on an annual basis. In the end Dwyer is and has been our best RB not named Le’Veon Bell (who was injured at the time of Dwyers release)

    Not saying that being cut didn’t motivate him, what I was saying is the coaches made the wrong decision in thinking that Redman was the guy, even after he failed to participate in almost the entire preseason

  • joed32

    Hindsight shows that Redman was the wrong guy but most fans wanted him over Dwyer. Dwyer looks like different player right now, I only hope he can keep it up.

  • steeltown


  • chris ward

    Great cut by Dwyer, turning nothing into something on that 8 yard run on 3rd and 3.

  • I am the first to admit when I am wrong. I thought he was a bum and destined to eat himself out of the NFL. Way to go JD, keep it going.

  • TheBlitz

    How about he’s carving out a brand new spanking contract as well.
    Steelers would be foolish not to retain his services when the season is over.

  • Luke Shabro

    I think he could be affordable. I don’t see any team looking at him as a primary back so I’d like to see him stay. I wonder if they keep Larod Stephens-Howling as a more explosive back or just draft someone in rounds 5-7

  • Luke Shabro

    It’s crazy how deceiving appearances can be. Redman looked totally cut coming into camp but didn’t produce a thing. I’m not saying Dwyer is All Pro but for being as doughy as he is, he can make some things happen.

  • Luke Shabro

    I was wrong too. I thought he’d be on the Lendale White plan and be out of the league

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Good work, JD. Keep pounding when necessary, and please work every day at catching passes, because one day you might get a big surprise call and you better be ready. It might even be in the red zone.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    In the 2nd gif Heath cuts his guy to the ground. I can’t help but think what if Dwyer would’ve taken the ball around the right side outside of Heath’s two man pile. The corner on that side would’ve had to either change directions quickly or jump over Heath and try to make the tackle. Beyond that was only green grass and white lines.

  • steeltown

    Could do all of the above

  • Chris Wilkes

    Couldn’t be happier for Dwyer. At least another team didn’t pick him up while we played around with Redman.

  • Riverstko

    Stay Hungry Dwyer!

  • MC

    Great displays of making something out of nothing. It’s so good to see the steelers making use of his talents. He is big and nimble, glad they found a spot for him since he is playing with a lot more fire and energy in his second tenure with the team.