The Pittsburgh Steelers have a long tradition of trotting out workhorse lead running backs who lead them to the Super Bowl. From the days of Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis, Willie Parker and countless others, the Steelers have enjoyed great success on the ground.
They though that had found it again with Rashard Mendenhall, although his season ending injury last year may have opened up their eyes to a new back who could lead them into the future in the run game. That player would be Jonathan Dwyer.
I am not saying that Pittsburgh should give up on Mendenhall. He is a talented running back with a nose for the end zone. He also has a propensity to get stuck in the middle of the offensive line, as well as having a history of being at least slightly injury prone. With that being said, the Steelers are never ones to shy away from giving a player with the hot hand more carries.
Regardless of when Mendenhall and Isaac Redman return, that must remain the case when it comes to Dwyer.
In 2012, Dwyer has the most carries for the Steelers. That says something, although it is not the most telling number for the Pittsburgh ground attack. It is not the amount of carries that matter most, but rather more what you do with them when given the opportunity. That is where Dwyer stands out from the rest of the pack in Pittsburgh.
Dwyer has 58 carries this season for 299 yards. That works out to a 5.2 yards per carry mark, which is well ahead of any other running back on the team. He is also the only running back on the team this season to have three carries of 20 or more yards. None of the others have any.
Redman is next on the team with 50 carries, but has registered just 127 yards, working out to just 2.5 yards per carry. In limited action, Mendenhall has 19 carries for only 74 yards, which is good for just 3.9 yards per carry. The job should now belong to Dwyer going forward, despite which other running backs come back from injury and when. Dwyer gives the Steelers the best opportunity to move the chains, put up points and help Pittsburgh win games.
Dwyer is the first running back for the Steelers to post consecutive 100 yard games since Parker back in 2008. Mendenhall never did it, and he had far more opportunities. Dwyer is by far the more talented back on the team right now, and his upside is much higher than that of either Mendenhall or Redman.
It should not matter what the other running backs for when they return. Dwyer should remain the lead back for the Steelers going forward. The competition really isn’t even all that close.