The Steelers weren't getting much done Sunday against the Buffalo Bills until their leading rusher -- from last season -- entered the game in the second quarter.
Jonathan Dwyer, who was cut before the season in spite of leading the team both last season and this past preseason, was given the ball on 3rd-and-1 at the Pittsburgh 33 and blasted ahead for six yards.
Three plays later, on another 3rd-and-1, Dwyer blasted for two yards and the Steelers went on to tie the game with a field goal.
On the Steelers' next possession, Dwyer converted another third down, 3rd-and-3, with an eight-yard run and then ran for another six to lead the Steelers to the go-ahead touchdown.
Again, in the fourth quarter, with a 17-3 lead, the Steelers gave the ball to Dwyer and he ripped off a 17-yard gain. It led to a game-cementing field goal as Dwyer finished with 38 yards on six carries.
It didn't lead the Steelers in anything that day, but Dwyer was a completely different runner than the leading rusher of the previous calendar year who couldn't control his weight or keep from tapping out of games.
"I like the energy that he brings, not only on offense, but he’s been a spark plug on special teams," said Mike Tomlin. "We’ve had some big returns in the punt return game and the kick return game in the recent weeks. He’s been a significant part of that. He made a significant block the last several weeks in that phase as well. I like where he is. I like the contribution that he’s providing us."
Is Dwyer different than he was last year? Has getting cut changed him?
"I would imagine unemployment does that," Tomlin said.
Mike Adams is another former starter who's providing energy off the bench.
After allowing three sacks as the starting left tackle in London, Adams was benched, but has come back as a tight end. Adams has played 28, 30 and 39 snaps the last three games, and none of those snaps was more inspiring than his pancake block of Buffalo linebacker Nigel Bradham on Le'Veon Bell's four-yard touchdown run last Sunday.
"It's been a rough week, a long week for us, and I think we all just had a great sense of urgency to get out there and do what we needed to do," was all Adams had to say about the play after the game.
Tomlin added a bit more at his Tuesday press conference.
"I think he’s doing a really nice job with what we’re asking him to do as a tight end, and it’s provided some good gas for us in that regard," Tomlin said.
Adams attends meetings with both the offensive line and tight ends, and said of the arrangement, "Hey, man, I'm just playing to help the team win."
So is Jarvis Jones, the third member of a group that has refused to let a benching put him in a funk.
Jones beat his old college teammate Cordy Glenn for his first career sack Sunday. It occurred in the fourth quarter, the first of back-to-back sacks with Cameron Heyward.
"Everyone says it's off my back but I still need a lot more production around here," Jones said after the game. "That's what I'm supposed to be doing and that's what I need to do."
Tomlin said much of the same, but in fewer words yesterday.
"It needs to continue," Tomlin said.
With the help of a new three-OLB, pass-downs package, Jones -- who lost his starting job after the Jets game -- played 40 snaps Sunday, his most activity since Week 3 against the Bears.
NOTES -- Rookie safety Shamarko Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain last Sunday and is out for at least Sunday's home game against the Detroit Lions. ... RDE Brett Keisel (plantar fasciitis), LG Ramon Foster (right ankle), C Fernando Velasco (right knee contusion) and LaMarr Woodley (left calf strain) will probably miss some practice time this week but hope to play.