In a loss where the wheels come off in the second half it’s hard to come away with many positives. However, the one thing that did transpire over the course of the game on Sunday was the continued maturation of Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer. That maturity and effort is something that is carrying over from the preseason, and is pushing him up very quickly in the ranks of the Steelers running back core.
After Redman showed now signs of making significant gains across the line of scrimmage (whether due lingering injury or other reasons) by the end of the first quarter, Dwyer was put into more consistent action – an early and somewhat bold move by either Tomlin or Haley. Dwyer immediately injected life into what little running game the Steelers had going for them the entire game by gaining 11 yards on his first carry. Unfortunately, it was called back on a holding call by Wallace, which if one were to look at the replay would not have mattered based on where Dwyer attacked the line.
Dwyer wouldn’t do much the rest of that half, but was able to get significant rushes in the second half. His biggest rush came as an 11 yard rush into the endzone for a touchdown. Two extra efforts got him there – something you could see in almost every time he carried the ball. The scoring play was reviewed and called back when replay showed that Dwyer’s knee clipped the turf just before he made a leap to the endzone. Dwyer’s number wasn’t called again due to the Steelers having to play catch up in the 4th quarter.
Dwyer’s action was somewhat limited in the first and second quarters, so in the other two quarters Dwyer was able to muster 43 yards on 9 carries and 11 yards on 2 catches. A pretty good night for limited action and an offensive line who struggled to seal run blitzes and create holes. And that’s where you have to really respect Dwyer’s position and the output he displayed on Sunday. Every carry, every catch Dwyer lowered his head and shoulders and made the defense pay for taking him head on. Linebackers were popped and run down almost every single time he touched the football. Kind of looked like the ol’ rock’em sock’em football Steeler fans have become accustomed to ever since the days of The Bus. I’ve quickly jumped on the Jonathan ‘The D-Train’ Dwyer wagon (that’s a real nickname).
Now, should the Steelers stop running Redman, Batch, or Rainey? Absolutely not. Redman is still coming back from injury, Batch shows signs of life from time to time, and Rainey has the potential of making huge plays anytime he touches the ball. But you have to start thinking that as the next couple of weeks pass, and if Dwyer keeps this kind of performance up, then he will surely find himself the No. 1 RB in the depth chart. It’s the kind of physical football the Steelers offense needs. Sure, they were able to put together a very long drive in the third quarter. But without any sort of continued physically punishing run game, then the Broncos defense had enough gas in the tank to stop Big Ben and the offense in the last three minutes of the game.
I’m excited to see this kid continue to mature, and love his smash mouth style of running. I’ve talked about him before in the preseason, and I hope he gets more carries against the Jets than he did against the Broncos. We could see 80+ yards out of him in the very near future. And that’s a good thing for the offense…. and for my fantasy football team.