Snapshot: Jonathan Dwyer

The Snapshot series of Steelers rookies continues today with a feature on sixth-round draft pick Jonathan Dwyer.

If it works out the way the Steelers have anticipated Jonathan Dwyer will turn out to be another good Choice.

The precedent for what their sixth-round pick might eventually become has already been established in Dallas, were the Cowboys are ecstatic over the development of their 2008 fourth-round selection, Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice.

The two played together for one season at Tech (in 2007, when Dwyer backed up Choice) in the pro-style offense favored by then-Yellow Jackets head coach Chan Gailey.

After Choice moved on to the Cowboys, Dwyer became the fullback in new Coach Paul Johnson's triple-option attack.

Choice rushed for 821 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry in his first two NFL seasons. While that was happening, Dwyer was posting back-to-back 1,395-yard campaigns as a sophomore and junior. It was the type of production that the Steelers found impossible to ignore by the time the 188th overall selection rolled around back in April, even though they have no plans to adopt the triple option any time soon.

Choice and Dwyer are described as "similar but different" by NFL scouts who evaluated both. They consider Choice (5-foot-10, 208 pounds) a more creative, shiftier runner with superior vision, while Dwyer (5-11, 229) is assessed as more of a one-cut, hit-the-hole, downhill type of ball-carrier.

Says Dwyer: "He's real quick, but I'm a little faster than he is," a comparison confirmed by scouts who add that Dwyer plays faster than his 4.67 40 time at the combine.

"Other than that we're the same player, very emotional when it comes to playing the game," Dwyer added. "When the lights are on we're excited, pumped up, always jumping around.

"His role is expanding. Sooner or later he'll have a starting job one day."

The Steelers buy the comparison, although they considered Choice a little more NFL-ready coming out of college than Dwyer.

Scouts for other teams see Dwyer's eventual upside as a No. 2 back. Their concerns included his fluctuating weight, and his perceived habit of running away from contact and even out of bounds rather than through a would-be tackler for an extra 2 or 3 yards.

Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson sees size and production, and for Wilson that's enough.

"He's a workhorse-type of running back and should excel at the next level as a runner," Wilson said. "When you're 230 pounds that's a plus and that can't be taught.'

Dwyer failed a pre-draft NFL drug test, a result he attributed to medication he has taken since childhood to combat Attention Deficit Disorder.

As for his ability to re-adjust to a more tradition NFL approach after spending the past two seasons with his hand on the ground directly behind the quarterback, neither he nor the Steelers view it as a potential stumbling block.

"It was real different," he said of the switch in college to the triple option. "Coming from a high school spread offense to a pro style was easier than going from pro style to the triple option."

Like any back trying to transition from the NCAA to the NFL, pass protection (blitz pick-up) will have to be mastered before Dwyer can be trusted on the field.

As for the rest, "the running game is just you being a runner," he said.


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