Dwyer: Third Down, Climbing

Jonathan Dwyer (USA TODAY Sports)

Sunday notebook includes Jonathan Dwyer, Heath Miller, Jerricho Cotchery and Vince Williams.

Jonathan Dwyer looked like the classic short-yardage back for the Steelers last Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

In three attempts on 3rd-and-short, Dwyer converted all three for a perfect 5-for-5 this season on 3rd-and-3 or less.

Dwyer is running hard, perhaps harder than at any time in his professional career.

When asked what effect being cut at the onset of the season has had on his, Dwyer said, "Nothing."

Not that everyone believes him.

"He's a guy that obviously has been through a little adversity, but he's come back in with a clear heart and up for anything," said offensive coordinator Todd Haley. "He said that from Day One once he came back, and it showed. Every opportunity, whether it's one snap, three snaps, five snaps, special teams, you see him and you notice him out there. I think that when guys do that and show that on a consistent basis they earn the respect of their teammates, first of all, and they earn the respect of the coaches, in return for probably some more opportunities."

Apparently, those opportunities are coming. Dwyer had 12 carries for 39 yards in Week 3 against the Chicago Bears, but once rookie Le'Veon Bell recovered from his foot injury Dwyer was hardly used at all. That began to change with his six carries for 38 yards last week, and is expected to continue today.

"He's taken on a limited role with great energy and desire and it shows up on tape," Haley said. "When we're in there as a group watching it and you see everybody kind of responding to it, he's taking what he's been given and getting the most out of it.

"My father used to have a saying, 'If a guy is averaging eight or nine yards, you better give it to him until you at least get that average down a little bit.' That's how things work. You earn the right to get some opportunities and he's definitely doing that right now."

H-E-E-E-A-A-A-T-H!

Heath Miller needs just 46 receiving yards to become the second tight end in team history with 5,000. But getting that yardage isn't as easy as it has been in the past for Miller.

Last season, before tearing his ACL in Game 15, Miller was targeted 6.7 times per game and averaged 54 receiving yards.

This season he's being targeted 5.6 times per game for 39 yards, but that's fallen to 5 targets and 21 yards averaged the last four games.

"I think it's just kind of the nature of the game and the way things go," Haley said. "If one guy is making plays, defenses generally are going to look for ways to try to take those guys away. That creates opportunities for other people. For us, specifically, I think that's why you're seeing a little more from [Jerricho Cotchery] who is doing a great job."

J-CO!

Cotchery, the former go-to receiver for Philip Rivers at North Carolina State, is 31 and not only on pace for his best season with the Steelers, but his best overall since 2009 with the New York Jets when he caught 57 passes for 821 yards and three touchdowns.

As the No. 3 receiver for the Steelers, Cotchery has 31 catches for 455 yards and six touchdowns, a pace that would give him 55-809-11.

"With him, number one, it starts with experience and preparation," Haley said. "That inside position is a position of experience, where you're in there and see the coverages and how they're coming from both directions different than an outside receiver.

"There's no substitute for experience. He's a pro. He prepares. He's the same guy every day. There's very little variance from Jerricho. He's not an up-and-down, yo-yo guy at all. He's going to be sitting in the same place in the meeting room, standing at the same place at 10 a.m. in the building, and in the right spots on the field. That's why he's much appreciated."

ROOKIE IN THE MIDDLE

Vince Williams made only two tackles in his fifth start of the season last Sunday, but the overall run defense improved significantly. In the rookie sixth-rounder's previous four starts, the Steelers allowed an average of 155 rushing yards per game and 5.0 per carry.

Against Buffalo, now the seventh-ranked rushing offense in the league, Williams ran from his buck inside linebacker position a Steelers defense that yielded only 95 rushing yards at an average of 4.2 per carry.

"Vince has been getting better every week," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "I think he's continued to grow. He might have been more visible (in previous games), but to us, day-in and day-out, he's made progressive strides. I think that will continue to happen."

QUOTABLE

Haley on Ben Roethlisberger's comment that their relationship is fine:

"I've been saying it since the offseason and training camp, through time and growth of relationships in general, I would expect it to be moving in the direction that it is. It's been night and day going all the way back to training camp, and obviously we haven't had the results that we want, so we're all disappointed where we are right now. But we still can control that and turn a bad into a good. I'll say it again, I think we've been on the cusp of being a pretty efficient, good offense, even with some adversity and moving parts. We just have to put a complete game together."

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