By John Perrotto
Football doesn’t necessarily lend itself to interesting statistical nuggets like other sports.
However, Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer provided a couple of beauties on Sunday in a 38-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field.
In one attempt, Dwyer more than doubled his career rushing total coming into the game. By the end of the day, he had more than tripled that total.
Dwyer, a fourth-stringer, was an improbable hero as the Steelers raised their record to 3-2 by rushing for 107 on 11 carries on a day when starting running back Rashard Mendenhall (hamstring) and third down back Mewelde Moore (ankle) did not play.
Dwyer did not touch the ball in the Steelers’ first four games and had 28 yards on nine carries as a rookie last season. However, he saw plenty of action Sunday as Issac Redman was mainly ineffective in his first career start, managing 49 yards on 15 carries.
“I don’t follow the stats or the history too much,” Dwyer said with a smile, “but I do know that it felt great to get out on the field for an extended period and contribute to a win. It was a lot of fun.”
Dwyer’s biggest moment came in the second quarter with the Steelers having already built a 14-3 lead.
Brett Kern’s 40-yard punt backed up the Steelers at their 10-yard line. Dwyer took a handoff, broke off right tackle and then broke to the sideline for a 76-yard run to the Titans’ 14.
Five plays later, Ben Roethlisberger threw his third of five touchdowns passes, a 1-yarder to fullback David Johnson and the Steelers had an insurmountable 18-point advantage with 6:17 remaining in the half.
“A lot of it was great blocking,” Dwyer said. “The guys up front opened a huge hole for me. They cleared a big path.”
The Steelers’ injury-ravaged line was makeshift Sunday as tackle Marcus Gilbert (shoulder) left in the second quarter and did not return and All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) also missed some time in the first half.
The Steelers, who also lost starting tackle Willie Colon (triceps) in the opener, were so low on linemen that they re-signed Max Starks as a free agent on Wednesday. The Steelers had released Starks on the first day of training camp after he reportedly ballooned to 400 pounds during the workout.
A noticeably trimmer Starks started at left tackle a week after watching the Steelers lose to the Texans in Houston on television in a bar in Scottsdale, Ariz. Following just two practices, Starks was inserted into the lineup in place of the struggling Jonathan Scott.
“They answered the bell,” Dwyer said of the line. “Coach (Mike) Tomlin gave the challenge to them this week and they answered the criticism (from) everybody who doubted them. They showed the league what we’re about.”
Dwyer finally showed the league what he’s about. Some considered him a potential first-round draft pick going into his final year at Georgia Tech in 2009 but he slipped to the sixth round and nearly failed to make the team in training camp this year.
“It’s all about proving yourself in the NFL and I feel I belong here and I can play at this level,” Dwyer said. “It’s a matter of getting the opportunity. I got my shot today and I took advantage. Every time I’m on the field, whether it’s on offense or special teams, I’m out to make an impression on our coaches and every other team in the league.”