Pittsburgh Steelers: Cutting Jonathan Dwyer unnecessarily risky


Aug 24, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer (27) carries the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Dwyer never had a chance.

At least it seems that way, looking back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ actions over the past month. From listing rookie Le’Veon Bell as the co-starter for the first exhibition game to trading for NFL veteran Felix Jones near the end of the preseason, it looks like Dwyer’s time in black and gold was destined to be limited.

To this observer, the whole thing makes little sense. A sixth-round selection in the 2010 draft, the 24-year-old Dwyer didn’t get a chance to play regularly – partially because of his lack of familiarity with the playbook – until last season. In 2012, the Georgia Tech product dressed for 13 games and averaged 4.0 yards per carry on 156 attempts.

Those weren’t world-beating numbers by any means, but at the least Dwyer demonstrated that he could be a competent option at the NFL level. Although Dwyer wasn’t likely to be a starting running back on a long-term basis, it’s probable he would’ve fit quite well in a time share at the position.

Aug 24, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Felix Jones (23) carries the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second quarter at Heinz Field. The Kansas City Chiefs won 26-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With Bell projected to be on the shelf for at least a couple more weeks with a foot sprain, it would’ve been reasonable to expect Dwyer and Isaac Redman to keep the Steelers’ running game viable through the season’s early going. Instead, coach Mike Tomlin has confirmed that Redman will start Sunday against Tennessee, with Jones as his backup.

So what went wrong for Dwyer in Pittsburgh? Much has been made of his fumble problems, although he had only two in 181 career regular-season carries. Yes, he had two in this year’s preseason games, but a report from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Mark Kaboly indicates the Steelers coaches wanted to keep him aboard.

Money wouldn’t appear to be a concern, either, as Dwyer was on a mere one-year, $1.323-million contract. But no matter what caused the Steelers to part ways with the fourth-year pro, it feels shortsighted.

Redman has put up similar career numbers to Dwyer, so he – along with veterans Jones and LaRod Stephens-Howling – should be fine piloting the Pittsburgh rush attack until Bell gets back on the field. Still, there’s always a transition period for new players, and the Steelers could’ve kept the newcomer total to one by retaining Dwyer.

Releasing Dwyer may not amount to anything significant, but it strikes me as an unnecessary risk taken bu a usually-prudent franchise.