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Steelers RB Dwyer taking nothing for granted

| Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, 10:30 p.m.
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Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer takes off against the Bills on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, at Heinz Field.

Jonathan Dwyer heard the talk and isn't it afraid to admit it got to him.

You know, that talk about him being lazy, out of shape and, of course, being the guy who always tapped his helmet wanting out of the game.

“It got to me,” Dwyer said.

So did being released, but this time, he did something about it.

Despite Dwyer being the team's leading returning rusher after a season that included back-to-back 100-yard games, the Steelers cut him before the start of the season.

Even though Dwyer refuses to admit it, the nine days he was unemployed before the Steelers brought him back, changed him profoundly.

“I would imagine unemployment does that,” coach Mike Tomlin said.

Unemployment, albeit brief, didn't sit well with Dwyer, who signed a $1.323 million restricted free-agent tender only days after being offered it by the Steelers in the offseason. Six months later, he was released.

“All it did was basically (make me mad) and want to prove everybody else wrong and make them regret what they did,” Dwyer said. “Nothing has changed the way I play. Playing the way I am playing now is no different than how I would've played anyway.”

Now, that's debatable.

When Dwyer was brought back after Week 1, he told the coaching staff he would be willing to do anything, and that's what he has done, whether it is carrying the ball or blocking on special teams.

“I just want to play,” he said. “That's all I want to do.”

Dwyer has played only 85 snaps in eight games with 39 coming in a Week 3 game against the Bears because the Steelers were thin at the position. Since then, Dwyer has had games were he has played six, eight, two and seven snaps.

“Whether it is for one snap, three snaps, five snaps, special teams — you see him and you notice him out there,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “When guys do that and show that on a consistent basis, they earn respect of their teammates and the respect of their coaches in return for probably some more opportunities.”

Dwyer has 29 carries for 139 yards but has made the most of them. He has three of the Steelers' five longest runs; he's a perfect 3 of 3 on third-and-1 runs and he has found the knack of running over people as 72 of his rushing yards have come after initial contact.

Dwyer has been vital on special teams as a blocker in the kick and punt return units that sprung big plays the past couple of weeks. There also was that block on Baltimore safety Matt Elam 20 yards downfield that helped Ben Roethlisberger to a long run that set up a field goal.

“He is running people over and jumping up and on people after the play and when he doesn't have anybody to celebrate with, he celebrates with himself,” fullback Will Johnson said. “Sometimes it takes certain things to change your outlook on stuff. He doesn't take anything for granted and that's showing. I can't speak for him, but I can definitely see a difference.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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