Sunday at Heinz Field against the New York Jets, he will get even more opportunities.
"I thought Jonathan Dwyer provided a spark play and represented himself well and will probably get an increased opportunity because of it," coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday.
Dwyer ran nine times for 43 yards, a 4.8-yard average per carry and one touchdown that was overruled by replay in the 31-19 loss in Denver. That represented more than half the Steelers 75 rushing yards. Everyone else had 32 yards on 17 carries or a 1.9-yard average.
This comes after Dwyer led the backs with 147 yards and a 5.3-yard average in the preseason. Last season, he averaged 7.7 yards per carry, although he only carried 16 times. Dwyer also caught two passes for 11 yards in Denver.
Tomlin did not say if Dwyer will start (Isaac Redman held that honor and carried 11 times for 20 yards against the Broncos), but he expressed overall disappointment with a part of the game the Steelers have long wanted to improve upon. The desire to run more effectively may be the main reason Bruce Arians was let go and Todd Haley was hired as offensive coordinator.
"I think we're capable of being better," said Tomlin, assessing his backs' performances in Denver. "We're still going to continue to play a number of people. We haven't sorted out specifically what that rotation is to this point."
All the backs, except for the inactive Rashard Mendenhall played. Baron Batch played mostly on third down next to Ben Roethlisberger in the shotgun. He had one carry but lost a yard. Rookie Chris Rainey had two carries for 5 yards and one catch that lost a yard. Redman also caught two passes for 7 yards.
Mendenhall will practice for the second consecutive week, and, again, Tomlin would not hint about his plans for him. Mendenhall's anterior cruciate ligament was torn Jan. 1, and he had surgery that month.
Minnesota's Adrian Peterson had surgery after his ACL and medial collateral ligament were torn one week earlier than Mendenhall. He not only started the Sunday for the Vikings, but he also scored two touchdowns and rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries, an average of 4.9 yards, against Jacksonville. He also caught one pass.
If Mendenhall were on the same timetable as Peterson, he would play this week. Tomlin officially listed him as "doubtful" Friday for the Denver game.
"We'll see how the week takes us," Tomlin said Tuesday. "I thought he had a good week last week. He's done a nice job with the things we've asked him to do, and we'll just continue to move forward and put our heads together as the week unfolds and see if he's the guy for us this week."
While Tomlin described "pretty good news" on the injury front, there, basically, was no news on James Harrison's knee that has kept him out of most every practice since last spring. The veteran outside linebacker's left knee was scoped Aug. 15 to remove particles that were irritating it and causing it to swell.
"James Harrison worked out yesterday," Tomlin said Tuesday. "He will run tomorrow, and we will see where he is. We will basically follow the same protocol with him that we did last week. We will work him up to activity and see how his knee responds to that activity. We will let that be our guide in terms of his participation."
Harrison's knee did not respond well to that protocol last week.
He went through a full practice that Monday, signalled the knee was A-OK Tuesday, went through a partial practice Wednesday, did not practice Thursday or Friday and did not play Sunday.
Tomlin had good news on a few other injury fronts, especially about the two starting offensive linemen who left the game Sunday in the second quarter.
"Ramon Foster, who missed time in the game, appears to be fine, as is Marcus Gilbert, who hyperextended his knee. Gilbert may be limited in the early part of the week, but it won't stop him from participating in this upcoming game."
Foster had what the coach described as an optical migraine with blurred vision Sunday.
Troy Polamalu also has a right calf strain that may limit him in practice, but Tomlin said he should play.
• Quote of the day from Tomlin when asked if he could evaluate the replacement officials: "I'm not going to do that. I'm going to keep my money in my pocket."
• Tomlin, who fired special-teams coach Al Everest in the preseason, praised the play of his special teams in Denver. Amos Jones, formerly Everest's assistant, coaches them now. "I thought our kicking game and our specialists were an asset. Shaun Suisham was 2 for 2 on field goals. He was 5 of 5 in the kickoff game, meaning he had five touchbacks. I thought Drew Butler represented himself well in his first time out as our punter. He had a 40.0 net average and landed one punt inside the Broncos 5-yard line. We won the field-position battle with that. We had a good punt-return game. Antonio Brown's return produced a scoring opportunity."