NFL Rumors: Should Jonathan Dwyer Remain Starting Running Back in Pittsburgh?

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IOctober 23, 2012

Oct 21, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace (17) and running back Jonathan Dwyer (27) celebrate during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers defeated the Bengals 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE
Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been looking for an answer at the running back position in 2012, and they may have found it in Jonathan Dwyer. 

Tim Kavanagh of ESPN Insider wrote a speculative article about Dwyer's viability and job security as Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman return from injury.

In it (for those without an Insider subscription), he cites Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette, who discovered a statistic that spoke to the significance of Dwyer's 17-carry, 122-yard performance:

With Mendenhall out with an Achilles injury against the Bengals, and No. 2 back Isaac Redman not active because of an ankle injury, Dwyer got a uniform and his first NFL start at halfback.

He responded with the best rushing game (122 yards, 17 carries) for the Steelers in more than a year, or since Rashard Mendenhall ran for 146 yards Oct. 16, 2011, against Jacksonville.

At the very least, a noteworthy accomplishment for a third-string runner. 

Bouchette also added, "It may have been Dwyer's first start, but it was his second 100-yard game. He ran for 107 as a reserve Oct. 9, 2011, in Tennessee."

So, where do the Steelers go from here? 

On the season, as noted by Kavanagh, Dwyer has 192 yards on 41 attempts (4.7 yards per attempt), Rashard Mendenhall has 74 yards on 18 attempts (3.9 yards per attempt) and Isaac Redman has 127 yards on 50 attempts (2.5 yards per attempt). 

Let's remember, these backs have faced defenses of varying stoutness, so that must be taken into consideration when evaluating all three. 

This week, the starting running back job could get extremely interesting, and deciding which back deserves the feature back role may be a difficult decision for head coach Mike Tomlin

According to Beaver County Times reporter Mike Bires, Mendenhall and Redman may be available this weekend against the Washington Redskins:

RBs rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) & Isaac Redman (ankle) have a chance to play Sunday vs. Redskins #steelers

— Mike Bires (@mikebires) October 23, 2012

There are many schools of thought when it comes to replacing a rather successful backup when the previously named starter returns from injury. 

To me, the Steelers should ride Dwyer as long as they can. 

He's fresh off a big game and would find himself in a prime position to continue to build momentum and a rapport with the offensive line against a susceptible run defense.  

No, the Redskins don't appear to be vulnerable against the run on paper, allowing only 85.3 yards on the ground per game, but they've been run on 154 times this year, the seventh-lowest total in football.

Dwyer may not be the long-term option for Pittsburgh, but there's no reason he should be relegated to a backup role after how decisively and successfully he ran in Week 7.