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Three’s a Crowd in Steelers’ Backfield

There are times when I miss the hi-jinx of Jack, Chrissy and Janet on the popular ’70′s and ’80′s show ‘Three’s Company’ simply because it was great comedy built around a simple premise and it didn’t take itself too seriously at all. For you youngsters, I highly suggest you check out that show on Netflix .

There’s another trio that I’m much-less thrilled about right now and it doesn’t reside in a seaside town in California. It lives in the backfield of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense and I have very major concerns about it’s ability to get the job done in the running game this week against Baltimore and for the rest of the season going forward.

The old saying about “having two good quarterbacks” means you actually have none is starting to apply itself to our running backs. Last week against Kansas City, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer were both healthy while Rashard Mendenhall was out with his lower leg issue. While I give the Kansas City Chiefs tremendous credit for the defensive schemes that obviously stymied the Steelers’ running game, I also think that with the two guys splitting time there was no opportunity for momentum.

I am a firm believer in the idea that you go with the ‘hot hand’ and two weeks ago the Steelers were forced to go with Isaac Redman with both Dwyer and Mendy out with injuries. Redman responded for lighting up the New York Giants for 147 yards rushing. This came on the heels of two-straight 100 yard performances by Jonathan Dwyer who came up lame at the end of the win over the Redskins.

In all three of those instances, Dwyer and Redman were the only game in town were forced to carry the load for the Steelers. Go back to Dwyer’s 100-yard game from last year and you’ll see that was in spot duty as well when the Steelers had few other options.

It was extremely clear to me that neither Redman nor Dwyer ever got into a positive rhythm against the Chiefs and it  affected the offense. Although the game has changed significantly in terms of less reliance on backs to carry the ball 20 to 30 times per game, any running back will tell you that the more they get it the stronger they get especially when they hit the 15 to 25 carry mark in a game.

Word has it this week from Isaac Redman no less, that Mendenhall will get the start Sunday night against Baltimore. We know full-well that Mike Tomlin loves his veterans and that he may be going with Mendy simply because he feels his ability as a runner and a pass catcher trump the skills of Redman and/or Dwyer. The problem with that logic is that Mendenhall is coming off a stretch where he hasn’t played in several weeks and has only seen time in two games this year.

Tomlin and running backs’ coach Kirby Wilson have most certainly talked about this issue and I hope they are prepared to go with the guy who is doing the job. The Ravens are near the bottom of the league in rushing defense and with no Ben Roethlisberger, the offense must rely more on a stable game whether we like it or not.

If Jack, Chrissy and Janet could all live together then so can these three, but I hope Tomlin is ready to play ‘Mr. Furley’ and make the leadership decision to go with the hot hand regardless of who it may be.

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