This year has been a transition year for the Steelers; figuring out just what exactly is “Steelers Football” has been tough to say the least, but Jonathan Dwyer and the offensive line are trying to clear things up. On a day where the division rival Ravens were on a bye, the Steelers seized the opportunity to gain ground in the AFC North and Dwyer was a big part of that.
For the first time in 4 years, a Steelers running back had back to back 100 yd games (Willie Parker was the last). Dwyer finished with 17 carriers for 107 yds, and another clock eating first down late in the game to help ensure the win. In very “Bus” like fashion, Dwyer moved the pile, moved the chains, and ultimately helped move the Steelers into the Win column over the visiting Redskins (the first time this year the Steelers have had back to back wins).
With Rashard Mendenhall still on the bench and Isaac Redman deactivated, Dwyer was asked to carry the load and he responded to the challenge, staking his claim to the starting job. It’s not just #27 though that deserves the credit; the offensive line has been quietly coming together and gaining confidence. The two go hand in hand, each feeding off the other to make a balanced offense. Willie Colon spoke to the Steelers “sideline noncombatant” Craig Wolfley afterwards and mentioned that “we have to keep playing that way if we want to have a great offense”.
“That way” that he talked about was playing with a hat on a hat, aggressive, relentless, blocking with each man taking care of their own assignments. When you have 5 guys playing that way, it makes the ground game flourish and Dwyer has been looking like a well-oiled machine meshed perfectly in the ground attack cog of the Steelers offensive machine.
Another benefit of Dwyer’s success on the ground is that Ben Roethlisberger’s jersey is much cleaner these days. The Redskins only registered one sack, but that was on Emmanuel Sanders via some Todd Haley trickeration on offense. Big Ben finished the day, 24/33 222 yds, 3 TD’s.
We can go back and forth about whether Mendenhall should get his job back when he returns, but one thing is clear to me at least. Dwyer has been the most productive ball carrier by far this season, the healthiest, and deserves at least to be the #2 guy behind Rashard when he comes back. (He did suffer a quad injury late in the game and will be evaluated this week per Mike Tomlin). I can easily make a case where you can put Dwyer in there over Mendenhall just based on production this year. Both Mendy and Redman combined have just over 200 yds rushing on the season. Dwyer has bested both of them in the last 2 weeks.
Suffice it to say that if the Steelers want to run traditional ‘Steelers football” or whatever this new version of it is, Dwyer is a big part of that.