By Cian Fahey
During his very short career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, running back Jonathan Dwyer has accumulated 151 yards on only 25 carries. Dwyer has been a professional for two years now, but his chance to see significant time on the field hasn\’t come about until this season.
Dwyer seemingly plans to take that opportunity as he has lost 20 pounds from his previous high of 240. Dwyer\’s weight has always been his issue. In fact, it is likely the only reason he is playing for the Steelers. In the 2010 draft, he slid to the sixth round after turning up to the NFL combine out of shape.
Once a Steelers player, things didn\’t change as he was out of shape for his first training camp, and despite a career long rush of 76 yards, he has never looked like an NFL running back when he\’s been on the field. Slimming down and toning can have a major affect on the fortunes of a running back.
Arguably the best running back in the NFL right now, Arian Foster, went undrafted in 2009 before spending his rookie season focusing on conditioning. Foster showed flashes towards the end of his rookie season, before posting 1,616 rushing yards in his second year.
Dwyer is entering his third season, and there is little chance that he is anywhere near the back that Foster is, but he is still only going to be 23 years old when this season begins. That is the same age that Foster was when he broke out.
The Steelers are fortunate that even without Rashard Mendenhall, they do not need to rely on Dwyer to perform this year. However, if Dwyer does turn into a respectable runner and backup for Isaac Redman, then the Steelers would be spoiled for choice across their offensive depth chart.
Dwyer is similar to Redman, but the potential to be an even more explosive runner is there. If he has indeed slimmed down then he should be faster. He showed a burst at Georgia Tech as the fullback in a triple option offense which is what attracted the Steelers to him in the first place.
Because the Steelers\’ offensive line is expected to be improved as a run blocking unit, two hard runners such as Redman and Dwyer could be made to look a lot better than they actually are. When you have two other backs such as Chris Rainey and Baron Batch to handle the roles in the passing attack, the Steelers backfield suddenly becomes very strong and deep even without Mendenhall.
Of course, once Mendenhall returns, he will demand carries if he is fully healthy. However, with two backs capable of wearing down defenses, there would be no reason to rush Mendenhall back onto the field. As good as Redman is in some people\’s eyes, very few backs in today\’s NFL are capable of carrying the load on their own. If Redman was asked to lead the team\’s rushing attack for 16 games in a season he could possibly break down, but if Dwyer is there to complement him, the duo could share the burden all the way into the playoffs.
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