View Full Version : Dwyer makes most of his shot with Steelers

09-10-2010, 11:44 PM
Dwyer makes most of his shot with Steelers

By Special

For the AJC

By Phil Axelrod
http://www.ajc.com/sports/dwyer-makes-m ... 11152.html (http://www.ajc.com/sports/dwyer-makes-most-of-611152.html)

PITTSBURGH Ė Donít believe everything youíve heard about first impressions being the ones that last. After a shaky start with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jonathan Dwyer created the impression that counted in the final two exhibition games to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

Dwyer reversed his fortunes after coming to training camp hampered by a few extra pounds, nagging injuries and a suspect approach that didn't endear the running back to coach Mike Tomlin. He led the Steelers in rushing in exhibitions against Denver and Carolina, albeit a chunk of those yards came late against players no longer wearing an NFL uniform.

A sixth-round draft choice out of Georgia Tech, where he ran for 3,226 career yards, Dwyer won't find out until game time Sunday if he will be in uniform when the Steelers play host to the Falcons in the season opener at Heinz Field. The Steelers cut Frank Summers, who had been listed as the starting fullback all summer, to pave the way for Dwyer to join Rashard Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore and Isaac Redman as the only running backs on the roster.

Dwyer missed early practice time with a hamstring injury, then lost another week plus an exhibition game with a shoulder injury. He made the cut with a meteoric jump on the depth chart, posting eye-opening games of 89 yards rushing and a 5-yard touchdown on 13 carries against Denver and 93 yards on 20 carries against Carolina. He had a team-high 183 yards on 39 carries and a 4.7-yard average in the preseason.

"I knew I had to do something." he said. "I was getting an opportunity in extended time so the only thing I could do was let the game come to me. I thought I did enough [to make the team]. They thought I did, too."

When he got the news he was on the roster, Dwyer let out a huge sigh of relief.

"Words can't describe how I felt," he said with a wide smile as he sat in front of his locker after practice earlier this week. "I was just hoping ... My prayers were answered. It's a dream come true."

The first couple of weeks of camp had been a nightmare for Dwyer.

"You needed to see something to warrant him being here. You've got to be available and he wasn't," Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson said. "His overall demeanor has changed. He's showing a lot more urgency. As a runner, yes, he showed some flashes, but we need to see it in all areas. He's still a work in progress and we're trying to develop him at a rapid pace."

At 5 feet 11 and 229 pounds, Dwyer packs a lot of power with his physical inside running, but his speed is merely adequate. He doesn't return kickoffs and hasn't shown the ability to catch passes out of the backfield. Despite his glittering numbers at Tech where he was 2008 ACC offensive player of the year, Dwyer waited until the sixth round before being taken as the 188th overall pick. There was concern for adapting to the pro game because he played in a triple-option offense at Tech and didn't have to make the kind of reads he would have to make in the NFL.

"I just finished the race [to make the team]," Dwyer said. "I've got a marathon now."

Tomlin and his coaches have been stingy with their praise of Dwyer.

After the Denver game, Tomlin told reporters, "As you guys can see, sometimes great performances against down-the-line people can be misleading."

Wilson added, "He got enough praise in college. Welcome to the real world. You earn your praise here."

Asked to describe the past four weeks, Dwyer answered, "It's an experience I'll never forget. I've learned what it takes to be a professional. I humbled myself. It's called growing up. I don't think I lacked focus. It was just bad luck. Things weren't going my way."

He quickly has changed directions.

"Dwyer is catching up in his own development," Wilson said. "You need time served."