There is potential for a real training camp battle this year for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers’ run game was stagnant last season, ranking 26th in the NFL. A Steelers’ offense that topped 100 yards rushing only five times in a season is an offense that needs to make changes. And with those changes, it’s clear that the role of some veterans could change.
One player where this could hit home in a big way is running back Jonathan Dwyer. Last season was a bit of a breakthrough for Dwyer, as he was able to rush for 623 yards in only six starts and 13 games played. But while his play was improved — 500 yards better than his previous career high — going into the 2013 season it looks as if the Steelers weren’t confident that he would be able to evolve into a full-time featured back. The Steelers spent a second-round pick on running back Le’Veon Bell, who has all the makings of full-time bruiser.
And let’s not forget about running back Isaac Redman, a four-year vet and fan favorite who will also be in the mix for carries. But honestly, as training camp approaches, Dwyer needs the focus on him. He’s not particularly skilled in any one facet of his game. He has nice size and speed but isn’t exceptionally quick or gifted with great long speed. But what Dwyer does have is experience in the system, especially in the more subtle parts of the game like receiving and pass protection. If he’s going to hold off Bell for a starting spot, those are the areas he will need to shine. He’s often been praised for his hard work, and he’ll need every bit of it to hold off Bell and Redman for carries.
Dwyer is going to have his work cut out for him. He might win the top spot on the depth chart, but it’s about meaningful carries at meaningful points in games that make stars. I will be rooting for Dwyer to improve and win the starting spot, even though Bell is clearly more talented across the board. As long as the team can improve on their pedestrian rushing numbers and with that, win more games this year, who is carrying the football becomes far less significant.