Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Competition: RB John Clay vs. RB Jonathan Dwyer

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 24: John Clay #38 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs through a tackle before scoring a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams in the first half during the Christmas Eve game on December 24, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

We highlighted the speed backs Thursday, with Baron Batch and Chris Rainey squaring off.

Now it's time for the larger horses to bump noses.

Jonathan Dwyer, listed at 229 (some say that's a bit light) and John Clay, listed at 248, both got carries last year. Dwyer's highlight being a 79-yarder he broke off against Tennessee, and Clay's being a solid 10-carry effort against St. Louis. They stand apart due to that experience, even for as slight as it may be in comparison to the two prize guys, Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman.

The issue is weight.

Dwyer's been ripped for his apparent weight issues, even admitting he "messed up" when speaking to Time-Online reporter Mike Bires in August, 2011.

But the expectations for Dwyer have been high, which is perhaps why he's dedicating himself more to getting into shape.

Clay didn't look as big as he is when he was running last season, which is a good sign. He's as green as Batch and Rainey, though, and wouldn't have played last season if not for an injury to Mewelde Moore. Then Mendenhall. Eventually Dwyer went down as well.

The paradox with the group is their size, without question. However, the main issue with back-up running backs is how they define themselves as blockers. Sub package backs not only need to be willing to block, but must be able. It's not all about size, and it's not all about a guy's desire to get in there and lower the boom on a blitzer.

Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley's past suggests the running backs should all prepared to be as versatile as possible if they want to make the roster; carrying, running, cutting, catching and blocking. For Clay and Dwyer, they've shown at least some ability to carry the ball successfully at this level. To round out the unit as a whole, they have to set themselves apart as pass catchers and blockers.

It looks like there are six running backs competing for four positions. Mendenhall and Redman are locks, so the remaining four will fight for the remaining two spots. Each of them have something making them unique. Dwyer has experience, Clay has size, Rainey has special teams ability and Batch has skill and desire to block. Not that any of them don't possess any other traits, but heading into training camp, those are the attributes defining them.

Dwyer must come into camp in tip-top shape. Clay will have to improve his all around game. This is mostly because of the versatility Batch and Rainey have.

Dwyer is also the one without any practice squad eligibility. That is something that could end up playing in his favor.

We could mix the four of these guys backward and forward, and come up with a different decision.


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