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Jonathan Dwyer earned a starting position with performance in Week 3 loss

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Even if Le'Veon Bell is ready to go in Week 4, the Steelers need to keep Dwyer on the field, if for no other reason than to help protect their quarterback.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

In the land of the inadequate, the running back who can pass protect is king.

Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer took a Steelers' staple - the 22 double, a power run behind a pulling guard, 25 yards and was beyond fired up after being tackled.

He couldn't be heard through the Sunday Night Football cameras, but odds are good the words he was saying (spraying) went something along the lines of, "you doubted me, you were happy they cut me, how ya like me now?"

Dwyer had 11 carries for 14 yards otherwise, which seems roughly on par for how the Steelers' running game will look this season, but Dwyer's willingness to stand in against Bears linebacker Lance Briggs - who outweighs him by 15 listed pounds and probably 40 actual pounds - served as notice to the Steelers and to fans more than his gaping-holed run did.

Dwyer went nearly untouched for his 25-yard gain, the result of the best blocked play the Steelers have run this year. His pass protection, though, sent strong evidence forward on the possibility the Steelers cut the wrong running back at the end of training camp.

In typical fashion in the Todd Haley Regime, it didn't take long for the starting running back to be replaced in the middle of the game. Isaac Redman started in Week 1, he was replaced last week by Felix Jones, who was removed after a fumble and replaced by Dwyer. Dwyer's effort in pass protection earned him a starting spot moving forward, but the fact the Steelers were able to hold off a free blitzer and allow their quarterback to make a throw down the field is like having discovered water in the desert.

Dwyer didn't run any better than Jones did - in fact, the argument could be made Jones' speed would have resulted in a bigger play off the 22 double. But Jones simply cannot handle blitzers the way Dwyer can. The job has to be his to lose.

Even if Week 4 is the debut of rookie Le'Veon Bell, Dwyer should still be on the field the majority of the game against the Vikings. He's earned it, and it seems likely quarterback Ben Roethlisberger values his ability to bail out a leaky offensive line and let him get the ball down the field.

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