Dwyer just latest breakout back for Steelers

Dwyer just latest breakout back for Steelers

PITTSBURGH (AP) Jonathan Dwyer walked into the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room a few hours before taking on the Eagles earlier this month, saw his name in black on the white message board and shrugged his shoulders.

The third-year running back expected there to be fallout over his costly fourth-quarter fumble a few days earlier in a loss to Oakland. While Dwyer hoped he'd get a chance to immediately atone for the first mistake of his career, the writing on the wall - literally - meant he was inactive.

Harsh? Maybe a little. Undeserved? Not really, at least not to Dwyer.

``I was inactive because of me,'' Dwyer said.

And the somewhat impersonal manner in which it was handed didn't bother him either.

``That's how we do business here,'' he said. ``It's very honest and straightforward and it makes me want to work harder to eliminate my problems and eliminate mistakes from my game.''

So Dwyer didn't spend two weeks beating himself up while watching from the sideline in sweats as Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman went to work. He's well-versed in the Steeler mantra of ``next man up'' and when injuries to both Mendenhall and Redman thrust Dwyer back onto the field last weekend against Cincinnati, he buckled his chinstrap, kept his head down and plowed ahead.

The result was a career-high 122 bruising yards in a 24-17 victory. On most teams, posting the highest rushing total in over a year would assure you of more than a handful of carries the next week.

Not in Pittsburgh, which has found a way of coaxing steady performances from whomever lines up behind quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

A half-dozen backs have topped 100 yards in a game at least once since Jerome Bettis retired after the 2005 season. From Willie Parker to Najeh Davenport to Mewelde Moore to the current trio of Mendenhall, Redman and Dwyer, Pittsburgh has a way of getting what it needs out of the running game from whatever name happens to be at the top of the depth chart, regardless of pedigree.

Though Mendenhall has been the entrenched starter since being taken in the first round of the 2008 Draft, when he's been hurt - which has been often - the dropoff has been minimal.

Last year it was Redman - who signed as a rookie free agent in 2009 - gashing the Denver Broncos for 121 yards in a Wild Card loss. Last week it was Dwyer - a sixth-round pick the 2010 NFL Draft - repeatedly churning into the Cincinnati secondary.

``There are a lot of talented guys in that room,'' tight end Heath Miller said. ``Generally one guy is carrying the ball so you don't get to see what's behind the starter a lot of times but (the backups) are not duds by any means, they've got a lot of talent and they probably deserve more carries than they get a lot of times.''

It's why Dwyer isn't getting caught up in worrying about his status, though it's likely he'll start on Sunday against the Redskins. Dwyer understands whenever Mendenhall returns from a strained right Achilles, he'll almost certainly head right back to the bench. The same threat looms if Redman's bothersome ankles recover.

If Mendenhall and Redman get healthy at some point this season, there's even a chance Dwyer could return to the inactive list.

Dwyer is OK if that happens, confident that he's heading in the right direction. It's been a long slog over the last three years for the former Georgia Tech star who surprised some by coming out after his junior season.

He arrived at his first training camp out-of-shape and even now, his 5-foot-11, 229-pound frame is hardly imposing compared to the chiseled Mendenhall or the brawny Redman.

Unlike most of his teammates, Dwyer rarely takes his shirt off in the locker room and there's a small but noticeable bump over his midsection when he's in uniform.

Not that it matters when the ball is in his hands. Dwyer runs with a quiet controlled fury. Get the ball. Pick a hole and sprint.

``My game is just going straightforward and making things happen and being physical,'' Dwyer said. ``That's who I've been ever since I was a kid. That's not going to change.''

Good, because the Steelers don't want him to. In a way he's a smaller version of Bettis only without the ``Bus'' nickname or the Super Bowl ring, though former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward has an idea on what to call Dwyer if he can make his performance against the Bengals a habit.

``He's the minivan,'' Ward said. ``He doesn't look perfect all the time. It's just a beige light van, no rims on the car, no tint on the windows. But he's one of the guys if you continue to give the rock too, gets you from Point A to Point B.''

It's all the Steelers ask from any of their running backs. For all their collective gifts, Dwyer, Mendenhall and Redman merely serve as supporting actors in an offense that revolves around Roethlisberger.

Still, even Roethlisberger relishes the chance to finish off an opponent by taking a snap, turning around and handing it to a back until the defense breaks.

The quarterback got a pretty good view of Dwyer's handiwork against the Bengals. When Pittsburgh took over nursing a seven-point lead with 3:57 left, he hit Mike Wallace for a first down then gave it to Dwyer on four straight plays for runs of 14, 0, 3 and 32 yards.

On the final snap, Roethlisberger took the ball and kneeled down in victory formation then slapped Dwyer on the helmet.

``He ran guys over and got the tough yards,'' Roethlisberger said. ``He found the speed to get down the field and into the secondary. He puts safeties in tough situations.''

The same can't be said for Pittsburgh's coaching staff.

Tomlin is pleased with Dwyer's progress but makes no promises about the future. That's fine by Dwyer, who tries to heed running backs coach Kirby Wilson's advice to focus on the brotherhood of the position and not who's getting the ball.

``Kirby has always taught that's it's not about competing against each other, it's about helping each other,'' Dwyer said. ``We all want to be the best.''


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Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, Time, How to Watch, live stream

Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, Time, How to Watch, live stream

When the Capitals take the ice in Game 6, they will be playing for their playoff lives. After losing Game 5 on Saturday to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Caps must win on Monday or their season will be over.

In order to do that, the Caps will have to change some things. First, they have to figure out how to win at home, something they have yet to do in this series. Second, they will have to find a way to get to Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy who has been dominant the past three games. Alex Ovechkin also needs to win the matchup against the fourth line since he has only two five-on-five points through five games. Finally, the defense will have to be better. Matt Niskanen took the blame for Game 5, but really it was a tough night all around.

Also, a few penalty calls against Tampa Bay would be nice too.

Where: Capital One Arena

When: 8:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Lightning, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBCSN

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Lightning Game 6 on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Game 6 of the Capitals vs. Lightning 2018 NHL Playoff series takes place on Monday, May 21 at 8:00 p.m. at Capital One Arnea.


The TV broadcast of Game 6 between the Capitals and Lightning is on NBCSN. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 on NBCSN
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Game 6 between the Capitals and Lightning is available to stream online on Monday, May 21 live here through the NBC Sports live stream page.


Capitals projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly
Devante Smith-Pelly -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Lightning projected lines:

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Yanni Gourde
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - J.T. Miller
Chris Kunitz - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Andrei Vasilevskiy starts with Louis Domingue as backup.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.


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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers


Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.


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