This season has been a rollercoaster ride for running back Jonathan Dwyer. The first two weeks he led a struggling ground game in rushing, albeit the numbers were not anywhere near where he would like with just 71 yards combined in two games.
He followed that up with being a game day inactive against Philadelphia and Tennessee in weeks four and five once a healthy Rashard Mendenhall returned to the starting lineup.
But with Mendenhall and Isaac Redman both out against Cincinnati on Oct. 21, Dwyer got the start and rattled off 122 yards on 17 carries. He followed that with a 107 yard performance against the Washington Redskins, but a quad injury sidelined him against the Giants the following week.
Dwyer has led the team in rushing in each of the last three games in a backup role, and this week, his hard work has paid off as he was named the team’s starter.
“It’s something I have done before,” said Dwyer. “It’s not new to me so I can adjust to it easily. I am excited about playing and the fact that I can start is a plus. In all reality I don’t think too much about it, I just think about improving on my mistakes to help us win.”
While he has started before, this is truly the first time that Dwyer’s name is listed first on the team’s depth chart. In his previous starts this year he was stepping in because of injuries, while Mendenhall remained the top back. But Mendenhall has been moved to third on the depth chart and the job now belongs to Dwyer.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Dwyer. “It’s something every guy works hard to do and works hard to get to in their career. It’s all in God’s hands. If this is his plan for me, this is it. I am going to continuously work hard every day and show my teammates I am serious about this and they can depend on me in this situation.
“You want to solidify yourself around here and keep your spot and work hard to show you are consistent and know people can depend upon you week in and week out.”
The Steelers are going to need Dwyer’s physical style of play this week going up against a Baltimore Ravens defense that thrives on delivering hits.
“That is the style I have always played with,” said Dwyer. “I can do whatever they need, I can make guys miss. But I like to be very physical at the beginning of the game. That is how I was taught to run the ball. Sometimes when you are physical at the beginning of the game, later in the game the defensive player is not going to want to take those hits. By doing that you can sometimes break tackles and have longer runs.
“I am ready to be the player I am, which is a physical player and just do whatever I can to help get us a win.”
The Steelers are currently tied with the Cincinnati Bengals for the sixth spot in the AFC playoff race, holding a slight edge having beaten the Bengals earlier this season. This week isn’t a “must win” for the team, but Dwyer understands how important it is.
“It’s a big game because it’s the next game, but it’s also a big game because it’s Baltimore,” said Dwyer. “Every game for us from here on out is a big game. If we want to get to where we need to be, we need to do things to help us win games. Right now that is focusing on Baltimore.”