Jonathan Dwyer knows when Rashard Mendenhall is healthy that the former number one draft pick will be back in the starting lineup. But even then, he can see everyone getting their shot in the backfield.
“We’ll just be a running back by committee,” said Dwyer. “Whoever has the hot hand gets more of the carries.”
Over the last three weeks Dwyer has had two 100-yard plus games, while Isaac Redman turned in a 147-yard performance against the New York Giants while Dwyer was injured.
Dwyer expects to be back on the field this week, while Mendenhall is also working his way back, possibly giving the team a full stable of healthy backs for the first time all season in a few weeks. If that happens, Dwyer feels the best plan of action is to give everyone a shot at carrying the ball, until someone gets going.
“It’s good to rotate, let everyone get a feel for it,” said Dwyer. “Everybody has a role, whatever that is. Whoever gets that feeling gets the majority of the carries and another guy rolls in when he gets tired. With all of us able to make plays when we touch the ball, who knows what can happen.”
Dwyer credits the recent success of the ground game with getting comfortable with Todd Haley’s playbook and finding running plays that work to the strengths of the backs.
“We just found things we like to do,” said Dwyer. “Coach Haley has a feel for us now. He knows how we are as individuals and he is going off of that.
“I had two big games and Isaac had a phenomenal game last week. It shows how deep the running back position is and teams have to prepare for all three of us and Baron (Batch), Will (Johnson) and (Chris) Rainey. They have to prepare of all of us.”
Tags: Baron Batch, Chris Rainey, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Rashard Mendenhall, Will Johnson
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When the Steelers running game started off slowly early on this season, the players preached patience, saying that things would soon turn around. While some might have doubted that, the players never did and the last two weeks the ground game has been a key factor in the Steelers wins.
Part of the reason for the success can be credited to the power running game provided by Jonathan Dwyer and also to the blocking, including the contributions of fullback Will Johnson.
When Johnson first signed with the Steelers this offseason, he was hoping to make the team and contribute on special teams. But after fullback David Johnson suffered a season ending injury in the preseason, Will Johnson’s role quickly changed.
“When I first came in I knew I was going to be competing for a spot, whether special teams or whatever,” said Johnson, now the team’s only fullback. “My role is to be a fullback and do what they ask me to do and earn the coaches’ confidence and trust.”
Johnson has also earned the trust of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and not only is he asked to block, but also be a part of the passing game. Johnson was wide open for a one-yard touchdown against the Redskins, for his first NFL score.
“We do it a lot in practice. It works then,” said Johnson of the touchdown play. “I was surprised they lost me. There is usually a guy right on my hip. I was surprised I was wide open. As soon as I turned around I knew. I saw the linebacker get lost in the mix and I knew I was going to be open.
“Ben seemed like he fired it right in. Luckily enough I was on the goal line and able to get it.”
Johnson’s numbers for the season aren’t anything that jump out, with one carry for five yards and six catches for 52 yards and the one touchdown. But what he adds is another weapon to an offense that is loaded with threats at receiver, tight end and running back.
“We have a lot of versatile players,” said Johnson. “I think we are showing a lot of balance.”
The other thing they are showing is confidence. Just like the players preached the running game would come on strong, after losing three games early on the veterans let the young players know that there was no reason to worry.
“I trust the guys,” said Johnson. “They have been in this position and have a lot of Super Bowl rings. I trust guys and doing what I had to do.”
Tags: Will Johnson
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A week ago fullback Will Johnson was fighting for a spot on the Steelers roster, hoping to make an impact on special teams and as a back-up to fullback David Johnson.
But after David Johnson injured his ACL against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night, Will Johnson was thrown into the spotlight.
“It’s unfortunate to have to fulfill the role, but I am more than ready to step up and do what I have to do,” said Johnson. “I am very excited, even though he won the spot I was excited to fulfill my role on special teams and help as much as I can.
“I like to say everything happens for a reason. I am excited for the opportunity. I am not happy he went down this way but I am definitely looking forward to it.”
Johnson said after reviewing film the coaches felt he did well and in his words, “I think I will be the starting fullback moving forward.”
Johnson played for West Virginia University from 2007-10, but went unsigned by any team for the 2011 season. He spent time in Charlotte North Carolina, working out and getting in shape.
He got permission from West Virginia to attend their Pro Day in 2012, impressing Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and Coach Mike Tomlin in the process and getting signed two days later.
“They told me they were impressed with what I did as far as speed and strength and told me they wanted to sign me,” said Johnson. “They said they didn’t want to make it public at that time until I passed the physical.”
Two days later, he signed with the Steelers. Not bad for a guy who last season was working three jobs, including two landscaping jobs and in the shipping and fulfillment warehouse for Elder Beerman.
“It’s definitely a blessing. It’s a lot better,” said Johnson. “Working those jobs helps you find yourself deep down inside. This is something I really wanted to do. You put all of your effort in to train, stay up a little later and work and it’s paying off.”
Tags: Will Johnson
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