By Matthew Marczi
Player: Jonathan Dwyer
Position: Running Back
Experience: 4 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2013 Salary Cap Hit: $592,941
2013 Season Breakdown: The 2013 season, of course, got off to a hectic and uncertain spot for Jonathan Dwyer, who was released in the final roster cuts when the Pittsburgh Steelers chose to go with Isaac Redman and the then-cheaper Felix Jones as reserve running backs, the latter of whom they’d just recently traded for.
It wasn’t long before an ACL injury suffered by LaRod Stephens-Howling opened up a roster spot for Dwyer, however, after just one week. Due to a concussion suffered by Redman on the opening kickoff in Week Two, Dwyer ended up starting at running back against the Chicago Bears and carried a season-high 12 times. Like all the running backs at the time, though, he managed just 39 yards at 3.3 yards per carry.
Dwyer’s playing time subsequent to that was quite sporadic, but he had multiple notable stints throughout the season in certain games in which he proved to be highly successful operating as the short-yardage back. That was one of the main reasons, likely, that the Steelers originally chose to keep Redman, who was later released, over Dwyer.
Of Dwyer’s 49 carries, 13 of them came on third or fourth and short, and he picked up 43 yards on those carries for an average of 3.31 yards. I don’t have an exact total or percentage of his conversion ratio, but it was obviously high.
All told, Dwyer averaged four yards per carry on the season, totaling just under 200 yards. His strong pass protection was somewhat mitigated by his relatively poor receiving skills. He neither scored nor fumbled. But what he did do was grow up some and learn to become a team player.
When he rejoined the team, special teams coach Danny Smith worked Dwyer into the kick and punt return units, serving as the up back on kick returns to great effect. Though his success as a blocker on punt returns was mixed, his effort was not in question, and that was an important thing for him to show.
Free Agency Outlook: One would think that the Steelers have interest in bringing Dwyer back for the 2014 season. They don’t really have a lot of options behind him, although practice squad running back Alvester Alexander could be an interesting dark horse. Both, of course, could very well make the roster.
It’s unlikely that Dwyer will be in the mix when speaking about starting gigs around the league, but it’s certainly possible that he will have some type of market for teams looking for a change-of-pace back, like the New York Giants, for example.
The main question here, I think, is whether Dwyer would prefer to return to Pittsburgh or to seek a fresh start elsewhere. No matter where he goes, he’s not likely to garner much more than veteran minimum. The four-year veteran has just two touchdowns in his career, as well as two lost fumbles.
Other Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Ryan Clark - Unrestricted Free Agent
Emmanuel Sanders - Unrestricted Free Agent
Brett Keisel - Unrestricted Free Agent
Jerricho Cotchery - Unrestricted Free Agent
Ziggy Hood - Unrestricted Free Agent
Jason Worilds - Unrestricted Free Agent
David Johnson - Unrestricted Free Agent