PITTSBURGH — There is nothing imposing about Jonathan Dwyer. No flash. No ankle-breaking open field moves.
That isn't the way the third-year Pittsburgh Steelers running back operates. He is more direct than dazzling. Get the ball. Pick a hole. Go. Repeat.
No wonder Dwyer has looked so comfortable in no-nonsense offensive coordinator Todd Haley's new system. With Rashard Mendenhall still rehabbing a surgically repaired knee, and Isaac Redman nursing a hip injury, the Steelers have turned to the soft-spoken Dwyer to provide the thump in the running game during the preseason.
So far, so good. Dwyer has 83 yards on 10 carries through two games, including 43 yards while working with the first team in a 26-24 win over Indianapolis on Sunday night. The performance was typical Dwyer. He never made it outside the tackles while gashing the middle of the Colts defense.
Given the way the Steelers expect to run the ball with Haley calling the plays, he will almost certainly get a shot even after the regulars are ready to go.
The Steelers haven't finished in the top five in the NFL in rushing touchdowns since Jerome Bettis retired following the 2005 season, instead relying more and more on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's arm.
While the two-time Super Bowl winner remains among the league's elite, he has also taken a beating the last few seasons. He missed one game last year and was slowed in several others due to a left ankle injury.
The goal is to take some of the heat off Roethlisberger and put pressure on opposing defenses by coming at them relentlessly with the ground game. It worked wonders for Haley in Kansas City in 2010, when the then-Chiefs head coach rode the legs of Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles to an unlikely AFC West title.
"If we can win every game running it 35-40 times, that would be great," Haley said. "Statistically, if you hand the ball off 30-plus times in a game, you've got a 90-plus percent chance of winning."