In the 2010 draft, the Steelers liked Jonathan Dwyer enough to take him seven picks before Antonio Brown.
Brown, a sixth-rounder like Dwyer, has become one of the keys to the Steelers’ offense, a formidable receiving threat opposite Mike Wallace. He’s also a Pro Bowl kick returner.
Dwyer, a running back from Georgia Tech, has not had that sort of impact, but he is a player to watch entering the 2012 season. With starting RB Rashard Mendenhall coming off an ACL tear suffered on Jan. 1, Dwyer could vie for more playing time.
Playing time has been scarce for Dwyer, who has just 26 regular-season touches on offense for Pittsburgh. He played but one game in 2010, a season that was about “just learning about growing up,” he said. He was just 21 when he received his first NFL carry, and he does not turn 23 until July. In 2011, Dwyer appeared in seven games, and in his most extended playing time of the season, he rushed for 107 yards on 11 carries in a victory against Tennessee.
Entering his third NFL campaign, “you want more,” Dwyer said Thursday. “You want to be out (there) more and more and be one of the main guys that contributes on this team.”
The 5-11, 229-pound Dwyer is coming off an injury of his own, a broken left foot suffered Dec. 4, but he’s back running, and he’s able to cut, he said Thursday. He expects to take part in the Steelers’ organized team activities, which begin next week, though his level of participation remains to be seen. He still has some soreness but nothing serious, he said.
After OTAs conclude, Dwyer, whose weight has fluctuated at times in his collegiate and pro careers — will train at Bommarito Performance Systems in Florida. Ideally, he said, he would like to play at 225-230 pounds.
If Mendenhall isn’t ready to begin the season, Dwyer would vie to be the top backup to Isaac Redman. Dwyer said that the rehabilitating Mendenhall is able to jog. “He looked good from what I could see,” said Dwyer, who last saw Mendenhall around the team facilities “a couple days” ago.
Mendenhall has been dependable since entering the starting lineup in 2009, missing but one game in that span — the Steelers’ win vs. Tennessee in October, Dwyer’s breakout performance, which was highlighted by his 76-yard run down the Steelers’ sideline.
“Hopefully, I want to be known for more than that,” Dwyer said of that rush, which is tied for the seventh-longest from scrimmage in club history. “That’s what this season is all about.”