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Galax Steeler
05-06-2010, 04:30 AM

Did the Steelers find the next, productive Jerome Bettis-like running back in the sixth round of the draft? That’s where they selected Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer(notes), who at 5-11 played at 244 pounds last season but has gotten down to 225.

They desperately needed a relief pitcher for starter Rashard Mendenhall(notes), who also will play on third downs. Dwyer could be it, as well as try out to become the short-yardage back.

Twenty years earlier, they drafted a back on the fifth round, Barry Foster of Arkansas. Two year later he set the Steelers’ record with 1,690 yards rushing in 1992. And there also was Willie Parker(notes), signed as an undrafted rookie who went on to become their third-leading career rusher before signing this year with the Washington Redskins as a free agent.

Dwyer came out early from Georgia Tech after the NFL committee that advises juniors on their possible draft status predicted he would go in the first or second round.

“Not often do you find 230-pound halfbacks with his ability with the ball in his hands,” said Kirby Wilson, who coaches the Steelers’ backs.

Dwyer was ACC Player of the Year after he rushed for 1,395 yards in 2008. He matched that total last season. But several factors combined to hold down his draft stock. He is not considered a finished product for the pros because he did not block or catch much running in the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense close to the line of scrimmage in a 3-point stance.

“It’s going to be relearning for him,” said Wilson. “It’s like getting back on a bicycle and starting all over again.”

But he seems a perfect fit for a Steelers offense that is under orders by president Art Rooney II to run the ball more consistently that it did in 2009, when the once-proud Steelers ground game ranked just 19th in the NFL and had difficulty in short yardage.

Mendenhall led them with 1,108 yards and a 4.6-yard average but they also want to use him on third downs. The only other back on the roster with real experience is Mewelde Moore(notes). Frank Summers(notes), whose rookie season ended with minor back surgery, and two players who spent much of last season on their practice squad, Isaac Redman(notes) and Justin Vincent(notes), join them.

Dwyer is the only other back they have since added to their 91-man roster.

“This kid’s broken a lot of long runs,” said Kevin Colbert, the Steelers’ director of football operations. “We think there’s something there we all haven’t seen yet.”


• QB Ben Roethlisberger(notes) spent last weekend at a clinic as part of his NFL-sanctioned evaluation, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Roethlisberger, who has been suspended for the first six games of the season but could have it reduced to four by complying with Commissioner Roger Goodell’s conditions, was ordered to undergo “comprehensive behavioral evaluation by professionals” after violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

• Pittsburgh had little depth across the board at linebacker last season and was proven to be weaker inside than anyone expected. That changed in a hurry over the course of a month.

First, they re-signed Larry Foote(notes) to shore up their inside, then they drafted two outside linebackers with their first four draft choices—Jason Worilds(notes), their second-round draft choice from Virginia Tech, and Thaddeus Gibson(notes), their fourth-round pick from Ohio State.

Neither did they stop there. They took outside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester(notes) on the fifth round. He can play inside or out, but they’ll probably move him inside.

That all might look as if the Steelers were desperate for outside linebackers. Not when you have three-time Pro Bowler James Harrison(notes), the 2008 defensive player of the year, and LaMarr Woodley(notes), who earned his first Pro Bowl trip, as starters.

But, really, they had nothing behind them. If one of the two outside linebackers had gotten hurt, inside starter Lawrence Timmons(notes) would have moved outside. That still might be the case if one of the rookies does not advance quickly enough in the learning process that it takes to convert from 4-3 college end to 3-4 outside linebacker.

At least now, they have Foote back. With the slowing of James Farrior(notes), 35, Foote’s return after a one-year hiatus with Detroit was fortunate.

“We like to groom them for a couple years and let them get their feet underneath them,” linebackers coach Keith Butler said. “The guys that have been successful here have always been good on special teams for us the first couple years they’ve been here.”

Among those were Woodley, Harrison, Joey Porter(notes), Jason Gildon, Clark Haggans(notes), Mike Vrabel(notes), Greg Lloyd and others. Many of them were college defensive ends who needed time to learn the new position, as will Worilds and Gibson.

“They are two quality, young, 250-pound-ish men, if you will,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “Of course, we value that here in Pittsburgh. We believe that’s a formula for winning football. They are big guys that can run. They love to play the game in a physical manner. We’re looking for those guys to contribute in whatever ways that we ask them.”

• Pittsburgh gave up little for a starting cornerback when they acquired Bryant McFadden(notes) during the draft. They got McFadden and Arizona’s sixth-round draft choice and sent the Cardinals a fifth-rounder. McFadden started for the Steelers in 2007 and 2008 and left as a free agent for the Cardinals. He did not play well in Arizona but the Steelers were happy to have him back.

“We jumped at it,” said coach Mike Tomlin. “You know what you are getting.”

• A Steelers official said the organization will support QB Ben Roethlisberger in his rehabilitation.

“We can’t defend the behavior or the actions and as an organization we won’t,” said Kevin Colbert, their director of football operations. “But we do defend his opportunity to make right. And I think that’s the right thing to do. This guy has helped us win two championships and he’s made some mistakes but he also deserves the opportunity to rectify those mistakes. I know we stand behind his opportunity to do that.”

• The Steelers will hold their required minicamp Friday through Sunday. Roethlisberger cannot attend because he cannot rejoin them until he is evaluated by professionals for his behavior. Hines Ward(notes) is the only player who missed their first two OTAs last week.

• Pittsburgh lists one fullback on its roster and he’s never played the position. Demetrius Taylor(notes) played linebacker and then defensive end at Virginia Tech, but the Steelers have put him at fullback. He is 6 feet, 275 pounds.

Quote To Note: “I think when you throw in Bryant McFadden and Byron Leftwich(notes), two players we were able to pick up using picks that we acquired this year, we really think this is a nice class and we’re anxious to see them go to work.”—Kevin Colbert, Steelers director of football operations.


05-06-2010, 09:12 AM

05-06-2010, 11:11 AM

05-06-2010, 11:58 AM
nice article. starts to get me pumped up about steeler football for the season. all this ben stuff i think has taken a toll on all of us. cant wait for it to begin!

05-06-2010, 02:19 PM
Denver wants the Next Elway....
Sf want the next Montana.....
SD wants the next LT.........
Pittsburgh wants the next Bettis.........

Get over them.... They are all one of a kind..........A new star will take over........But when that is hard to say...........You are talking about hall of famers...................Look how long you had to wait for Ben.........

And you all want to trade him.............

Lordy lordy help us all...............

05-08-2010, 01:13 PM
I so can't wait until training camp.

05-08-2010, 03:46 PM
Dwyer Never blocked or caught Passes.....Not good

05-08-2010, 03:57 PM
Dwyer Never blocked or caught Passes.....Not good

yeah he did.

05-08-2010, 08:42 PM
Dwyer Never blocked or caught Passes.....Not good

So let us know once it's proven he can't be coached up on blocking at the NFL level. By the way, he did have 15 receptions for Georgia Tech. He was never used as a main weapon in the passing game, but that doesn't mean he can't catch the football.