Dwyer must prove himself all over again
By Ralph N. Paulk
Published: Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, 7:15 p.m.
Jonathan Dwyer absorbed a few verbal jabs about his lack of fitness after the Steelers drafted him out of Georgia Tech. The odds didn't favor the sixth-round pick, but he's still standing while others are long gone.
While Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman were nursing injuries, Dwyer stepped in to give the Steelers some semblance of a ground game last season. He posted a team-high 623 yards and averaged 4.0 yards per carry.
Not bad for a running back whose future seemed uncertain during last year's training camp. He played in seven games in 2011 — including a 107-yard rushing effort against Tennessee — before ending the season on the injured list.
Dwyer, who started six games last season, appeared to be the leading candidate for the No. 1 tailback job at season's end. Now he faces the possibility of slipping to third string behind rookie Le'Veon Bell and Redman.
“I think every year guys come in to camp, guys that are returning are pitted with new people fighting for jobs,” said coach Mike Tomlin, who added that Bell will play some with the starters in Saturday's preseason opener against the Giants at Heinz Field.
“I don't think anything has changed from last season,” Dwyer said. “It's like last year with Mendenhall when we were just runners with different names on our backs. We're all fighting for time because we're competing against each other.
“I'm very comfortable with it, and I'm helping others. I'm doing the best I can every time I go out there. I want to take advantage of every opportunity I can. It doesn't matter if things are bad or good. I just want to play and be dependable whenever my name is called.”
That doesn't mean Dwyer is willing to concede the No. 1 job.
“Trying to be a starter is what we all work for,” he said. “Whether I'm the backup or the third-down guy, I want to be productive. I want my teammates to know they can depend on me and I can be trusted.
“I know my play will talk for me. My goal is to make plays and make it a hard decision for them (coaches) to sit me.
“I thought about being the No. 1 back, but I know I could have done better. I didn't show what I'm capable of doing, and I let some opportunities to slip away.”
Dwyer's missed opportunities could explain partly why Bell became an appealing prospect prior to the draft. But losing Mendenhall to free agency and Redman's bouts with injuries necessitated the Steelers taking a running back in the draft.
“I'm excited about the first preseason game,” Dwyer said. “I'm ready to compete, but it's not just an important game for me. It's important for everybody. It's a tune-up game we're taking seriously.”
It's a serious matter for Dwyer, who once again has to battle for a spot in the rotation. He came to camp in the best shape of his four-year career and prepared to prove to Tomlin and running backs coach Kirby Wilson that he can carry the load.
“I'm not trying to be average,” he said. “I'm serious about my game and my conditioning. I'm serious about fighting for the No. 1 job.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 2 Ravens night games highlight the upcoming season for Steelers
- Steelers pick up defensive end Heyward’s option for 2015 season
- Draftees’ longevity key for NFL success
- Rice cornerback among 3 draft prospects to visit Steelers
- Expanded NFL replay draws mixed reviews
- Steelers sign former Texas cornerback McCain
- Steelers take flier on ex-Colts WR Heyward-Bey
- Despite many moves, Steelers’ depth still a work in progress