Jonathan Dwyer: Rashard Mendenhall Injury Makes Steelers RB Ideal Flex Play

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIOctober 20, 2012

Sep, 1, 2011; Charlotte, NC, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer (27) with the ball as tight end Jamie McCoy (45) blocks and Carolina Panthers cornerback R.J. Stanford (35) and defensive back Kevin Payne (24) defend in the second half. The Steelers defeated the Panthers 33-17 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Rashard Mendenhall said Johnathan Dwyer will start in his place as he is set to miss the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Week 7 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The news came on Friday after reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala tweeted Mendenhall’s vote of confidence in his to-be replacement.

Rashard Mendenhall says Jonathan Dwyer will start at RB Sunday for the Steelers and he expects big things of his replacement: "He's ready"

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) October 19, 2012

Speculation throughout the week guessed that it would be Dwyer who took over the starting running back job if both Mendenhall and Isaac Redman were limited or unable to go on Sunday night at Paul Brown Stadium.

Those concerns look like they’ve come true.

Mendenhall (Achilles) and Redman (ankle) missed practice on Friday and have been downgraded to “out,” according to John Clayton, ESPN’s senior NFL writer.

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, a vital cog in the team’s ability to run the ball, may play but is still being limited by a knee injury he sustained last Thursday in the team’s loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Starting offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) will also be unavailable for the Steelers. Rookie Mike Adams from Ohio State will start in his place at right tackle.

What does that mean for your fantasy football waiver wire and your matchup this week?

Dwyer poses an intriguing option for anyone in need of a spot start during their bye week. He has excellent size, speed and hands that will make him a versatile player out of the backfield for a Steelers’ offense that desperately needs to establish a running game.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has stymied due to injuries and struggles on that offensive line.

In 2011, Dwyer received significant action due to injuries to Mendehall and Mewelde Moore. He took his first carry—a trap play between the tackles—of the game 76 yards to set up a Steelers touchdown.

He finished the game with 11 carries for 107 yards while performing in a timeshare with Redman.

While his numbers haven’t been there in his three limited appearances in 2012 (24 car., 70 yds., 2.9 avg.), the Steelers backup certainly has the ability to be a solid option as a starter against a poor Cincinnati defense.

He’s tough between the tackles and can grind out yards by extending plays after contact. That’s the biggest thing he brings to the table this week. If he can drive his feet and wear down Bengals defenders, he may be able to break one and score at least one touchdown.

Dwyer and the Steelers have a lot riding on this game and it’s the perfect situation in which opportunity and fate has aligned.

One-hundred all-purpose yards and one touchdown are likely outcomes for the third-year pro in what will be the biggest opportunity in his young career.

Mike Hoag Jr. is a Breaking News Team writer with Bleacher Report and also covers the NFL and the Cleveland Browns for the site.