Justin K. Aller
Steelers restricted free agent and leading rusher Jonathan Dwyer had the unfortunate stigma of being caught on camera pulling his jersey - an indication he's requesting to be removed from a game. He says it's what the running backs were told to do in 2012.
Like many current NFL players, Jonathan Dwyer has turned to Twitter as a bridge between himself and #SteelerNation as a whole.
Many people wish to disregard the validity of Twitter for breaking news, mainly for the same reason we used to be skeptical over the average interview - talk is cheap. However with some players, what you see really is what you get. Dwyer is one of those players.
Dwyer has become very active in social media this off-season, and has passed along two newsworthy items which probably will not make major headlines, but they are important nonetheless.
This morning, Dwyer and his wife took to Twitter to announce the impending arrival of a baby boy.
GM to all today is a very special day today me and @dwyerk27 will be bringing a lil boy into this world keep us in your prayers this morning— Jonathan Dwyer (@JDwyer27) February 20, 2013
With all of the joy a child can bring into one's life, it is hard to escape comparisons between Dwyer and Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger and his wife were expecting a child of their own last season. The child entered this world while Roethlisberger was recovering from his unique shoulder/rib injury; but he had made it perfectly clear from the onset he would give up playing time to be with his wife during childbirth.
Dwyer had worked his way up from third-string to team starter by the end of 2012, one of the worst rushing performances in team history. With a new offensive line coach and possibly a new running philosophy, heavy contributions will be expected from Dwyer, regardless of a possible re-signing of Rashard Mendenhall or early-round draft pick.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been torn over a plethora of uncertainties surrounding their running game in 2013. While Dwyer did post consecutive hundred-yard games in his first two starts, a by-committee approach prevented any of the team's five running backs from developing and maintaining momentum. Many feel the team needs to address the position in the draft, with little concern over returns for Dwyer or fellow RFA Isaac Redman.
There are some who fail to see Dwyer as a long term option, due to his struggles with health and physical fitness in his first three seasons. Even head coach Mike Tomlin ridiculed Dwyer publicly at the end of the 2011 season, threatening Dwyer's job if he showed up to training camp the following year out of shape once again.
Dwyer arrived to camp in the best physical condition of his career, however he was still the last in line. Despite outperforming his co-workers, he continued to draw ridicule from fans and media alike, for what passed the eye test as "tapping out" - intentionally removing one's self from a game, usually due to fatigue, injury or exhaustion.
This author has taken to Dwyer's defense previously in this space, speculating his tapping-out had more to do with the by-committee approach than it did his conditioning. On Tuesday evening, the beleaguered running back took to his own defense, while he was the subject of a separate Twitter conversation. The discussion revolved around his ability to have a break out season in 2013, which once again recycled Dwyer's propensity for tapping-out.
This time Dwyer confirmed what this author has been saying all along, with his only provocation being the installation of his Twitter handle during the conversation.
While it would be foolish to expect a player to come out and promise to be completely unprepared for an NFL season, Dwyer will have to tangibly confirm his statement by entering camp in the best conditioning of his career. It has yet to be determined whether Dwyer will be able to adjust to an alleged philosophy change, with the team talking about a zone blocking scheme implementation. However, if he is able to maintain his health and fitness, Dwyer would stand his best chance of success by only needing to overcome a system switch, rather than a career change.
Dwyer's life has become all about change, as he continues to work his way to the top of the depth-chart ladder. He has been presented a great opportunity. We will have to wait and see if the young man from Georgia Tech is truly ready to carry his team by the football, for an entire season. However, we do know he is mature enough to be fully aware of his situation and to acknowledge what is required by his new role.
While on the field, Steelers fans will hope to be congratulating Dwyer on a great, Super Bowl winning season; off the field, Behind the Steel Curtain would like to offer a hearty congratulations to both Dwyer and his wife, Kayla.