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Steel City Survivor

Going into the 2010 NFL Draft, Jonathan Dwyer was one of the hottest names floating around in dynasty circles. After all, he had just finished a fantastic career at Georgia Tech that saw him run for 1,395 yards in each of his last two seasons, on a healthy average of over 6.4 yards per carry. Tack on his 26 touchdowns in those two seasons and he looked like a future first round rookie pick in dynasty drafts.

All was not to be wine and roses, though.

Prior to the combine, Dwyer revealed he had been playing at around 240 pounds his entire Junior season (his last in college) and his coaches verified his weight was a constant challenge for him to maintain. He was able to get down to 229 for the NFL combine and ran a 4.59 40 at there, though some had him clocked in the 4.6 or 4.7 range, which is pretty sluggish for a tailback. When you combined his disappointing combine numbers (somewhat verified at his pro day) with concerns about his ability coming from an unconventional triple option attack, the stock of Dwyer seemed to be slipping out of the first round and possibly as late as the third.

Things got worse from there.

Dwyer tested positive for a banned substance at the combine, but it was later deemed as acceptable due to a medical condition. That condition was never verified, but Dwyer himself stated it was for treatment of an attention deficit disorder. Ironically, the positive drug test didn’t hurt his draft stock, but the condition itself likely did as Dwyer fell all the way to the sixth round of the draft, being selected at #188 overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers. At that point, players aren’t even guaranteed a roster spot.

His first training camp was nearly a total disaster as he showed up overweight and hurt his hamstring on the first day. It didn’t get any better as he hurt his shoulder later in camp and looked to be clearly on the roster bubble. Dwyer salvaged a roster spot by playing well in the preseason’s last two games, rushing for 175 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries, good for an average of 5.3 yards per carry. The Steelers knew he wouldn’t make it on to the practice squad, so they kept him on the active roster. He finished the season by appearing in one game, carrying the ball nine times for 28 yards – hardly what dynasty owners could have hoped for.

Going into 2011, hopes were again rekindled as Dwyer made the Steelers as the fourth running back. He finally broke out in week six with 107 yards on 11 carries against Tennessee, showing everyone he still did, indeed, have some talent. Unfortunately, he broke his foot shortly after that game and went on injured reserve, prompting many dynasty owners to finally cut bait.

This year again brought some new hope with Rashard Mendenhall hurt and Isaac Redman being the lead back to start camp. Dwyer reportedly showed up to camp in the best shape of his life and it’s finally translated to the field. With Redman being very average in the preseason, Dwyer took the most of his opportunity and ran for 147 yards on 28 carries, good for an average of nearly 5.3 yards per carry. He’s also caught three passes for 48 yards, which has never been his strong suit.

Going into the season, Dwyer finally has some momentum. He’s passed the eye test thus far during the preseason as Redman has struggled, gaining just 38 yards on 17 carries. The coaching staff isn’t revealing who will start for Pittsburgh (and they play in the late game on Sunday, which makes it tough), but there’s little doubt that Dwyer is going to begin the season with meaningful touches for the first time in his career, whether he’s the starter or not. The best bet at the moment is Dwyer and Redman split carries with Chris Rainey sprinkled in on occasion.

Dwyer has been a total disappointment in dynasty leagues – it’s just a fact. However, he’s finally going to get a chance to showcase his ability and possibly carve out a meaningful role in the offense. He’s a great player to have stashed on your bench right now because the Steelers running game is a huge question mark. If his preseason play can translate to the field in the regular season, it’s going to be tough to keep him on the bench, even when Mendenhall comes back.

Personally, I’ve never been a believer in Dwyer. His weight issues and lack of passion have always bothered me. It looks like those could be in the past, but I find myself skeptical. If he puts together some solid games early, he may be a great dynasty “sell” candidate to a contender as I still find it hard to believe he’s the long term answer at tailback for the Steelers. The only problem is going to be deciding what to do if those games he puts up are “great,” and not “solid.”

We’ll soon find out.

Ken Kelly
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ziggy19
9 years ago

was looking at trading for Dwyer and a 2013 1rst rd pick for Jonathan Stewart and a 2013 2nd rder. His team appears weak so I`m thinking top 5 pick next yr in the deal for me.

9 years ago

The interesting thing to me is Mendenhall. I disagree, but many view him as an average talent. However, when in the Steelers’ lead back role, he was a top 10 dynasty RB pre-ACL. If Dwyer takes that job, and holds on to it, we could see a meteoric rise.

Jo Cat
Reply to  Luke Bouchard
9 years ago

im thinking that the steelers pound mendenhall in the second half a)because i think their rushing game will struggle with redman and dwyer and b0 because he’s a free agent so they might as well squeeze every last drop out of him in case he does leave. i have him booked as a top 20-25 rb in the second half

Eric MacKenzie
Reply to  Jo Cat
9 years ago

Haley doesn’t tend to work a one back system. Did it once in his first year with Edge, but he’s mostly worked a thunder & lightning strategy. With Rainey around, I’m not sure why he would stop now.

Mercenaries
9 years ago

I picked up Dwyer months ago in our league’s free agent draft and have been hanging onto him ever since. All he’s done so far this offseason is produce, yet nobody was giving him a shot to overtake Redman. Now Redman is proving that he’s back-up caliber at best. I’ve never been a big believer in Mendenhall. I would love to see Dwyer take the starting job and run with it. Mendenhall is a free agent after this season, and a strong showing from Dwyer could make Mendy expendable. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Steelers dangled him for a trade to a RB needy team once he proves he’s healthy, since the trade deadline has been pushed back. Maybe wishful thinking, but it could happen.

Mark
9 years ago

So you right an article explaining how he has always been productive when not injured despite weight issues. Then tell us not to expect much because he lacks motivation. I’m confused. He looks good so far, is productive, on a rb needy financially poor team. I think he has a good chance to be that diamond in the rough ww add. If he’s productive, he might have long term rb 2 or better value. I don’t think you sell if he shows up to start the year.

Mark
Reply to  Mark
9 years ago

Write*

Mark
Reply to  Ken Kelly
9 years ago

Fair enough. I guess I’ll agree to disagree about selling high. Just seems to me, I understand the risk, that he has as good of an opportunity as any back up to be a work horse in a productive offense. I see a dwyer/rainey combo in the future. Then again I’ll sell anyone if the price is right!

Cyrus Miller
9 years ago

My take is this…

Mendy is not an average talent. He is above average. The problem is that he needs a decent offensive line to display his talents. The Oline has been miserable in Pittsburgh and RB’s who can run straight ahead and get momentum are much more likely to produce ypc.

I have said for years that if the Steelers could improve their Oline, Mendy would be a stud. I thought they did this year in the draft, but the injury to DeCastro means it might not come together just yet.

Redman is below average. I don’t consider him startable even if he is the main RB.

Dwyer could be good. He showed in college that he had talent, but so far he has shown nothing in the NFL. If he comes out on fire this season, they might view him as the heir to Mendenhall. If Mendenhall comes back on fire, they might resign him. If neither look good, I expect them to just draft a new RB in 2013.

I own Mendenhall and am expecting him to be a starter, whether he resigns with the Steelers or goes as a FA. If the Steelers draft a RB, I will try my best to get him. I don’t really believe in Dwyer, so I don’t view him as a long term solution.

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