If you have read my post and listened to the Terrible Podcast since the Steelers drafted running back Jonathan Dwyer, you know that I have never doubted his running ability with the football. My concerns with him have always been when the football is not in his hands. This key factor is what keeps running backs on rosters as plenty come out of college every year that can merely tote the rock.
During his rookie season Dwyer appeared totally lost during the preseason and in the week 17 game against the Browns when the ball was not in his hands. He struggled with his blitz pick-up most of all. Not a real surprise though considering his role at Georgia Tech. There were times though where I and others thought he did not take the game seriously.
This past training camp it appeared that Dwyer would be gone as fast as he arrived as the early reports of him being over-weight and not practicing well surfaced. Combine that with the great beginning of camp by 7th round draft pick Baron Batch, and the future looked bleak for Dwyer.
That all seemed to change when Batch went down with his season ending knee injury. Dwyer had a roster spot back in his grasp and we saw some improvement in the areas that he lacked in during preseason. They were not great improvements mind you, but improvements nonetheless and they were combined with solid effort.
Fast forward to the game this past week against the Titans and Dwyer showed more noticeable improvements. Throw out the long run he had through a hole that Franco Harris could still run through, as I am talking about the little details without the ball in his hands. The evidence can be seen in the two animated gifs below.
On the first play, the Steelers are in 13 personnel. Doug Legursky pulls out from left guard to molly block Titans defensive end Jason Jones. After a first good blow by Legursky, Jones gets into the passing lane and Dwyer steps in after a nice play action fake to help Legursky by delivering a shoulder chip. It was a 3rd down & 1 play right after Isaac Redman left with his calf injury and the pass was complete to Mike Wallace for 12 yards and a first down.
The second play is where Dwyer really impressed. The Steelers are in 11 personnel with Dwyer and Heath Miller both lined up sidecar to Ben Roethlisberger. Dwyer is on the right. The Titans are showing blitz on their right side with linebacker Akeem Ayers and safety Jordan Babineaux both coming. Miller has responsibility for Ayers and Dwyer has outside responsibility on Babineaux. Miller easily forces Ayers inside and Dwyer lowers his shoulder and knocks the Titans safety off of his feet. The pass was incomplete to Antonio Brown, but Dwyer did his job on 3rd and 8. That is the single best recognition and block Dwyer has made during his short Steelers career and you can bet he got the praise in the meetings this week because of it.
This is what I have been looking for out of Dwyer and he certainly is well on his way to becoming a complete running back if he keeps this progress up.