The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the win column after a crucial victory in Cincinnati on Sunday night. The win, combined with a Ravens loss and a slew of injuries, should have Pittsburgh fans feeling good as the second half of the season approaches. An integral part of the Steelers win over the Bengals was running back Jonathan Dwyer, who averaged more than seven yards per carry and racked up 122 yards on the ground.
It was Dwyer's first appearance in almost a month, after head coach Mike Tomlin benched him for a fumble in the Steelers Week 3 loss to the Raiders. With Dwyer instantly producing upon his return, Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain raises the question over whether the benching was justified, and if Tomlin set a double standard given the other fumbles by a pair of star wideouts:
While there's obviously a level of leeway given to the stars of the team, Dwyer wasn't the only Steelers player to fumble against Oakland. Wide receiver Antonio Brown put the ball on the ground twice, losing one of them, and Mike Wallace fumbled, but was able to recover it near the spot he lost it.
It just begs the question of why a two-game benching (or one with one more attributed to him earning his way back on the field) was warranted, and in a post ipso facto way, wondering which was more prevalent in the last two games; Dwyer's benching leading to a big rushing week against the Bengals, or his lack of participation leading to a poor rushing effort against Tennessee?
The Steelers were shorthanded in the backfield during their Thursday night loss to the Titans. Rashard Mendenhall, who's still coming back from ACL surgery, aggravated his Achilles and Isaac Redman took a helmet right to the knee, limiting him in the second half. Baron Batch was productive in the loss to Tennessee, but Coolong and others are left to wonder about how Dwyer could have potentially affected the game.
Pittsburgh is near the bottom of the league in rushing, averaging just 90.2 yards per game through their first six games. With Mendenhall down, Dwyer and the rushing attack didn't exactly get off to the best of starts in September. Perhaps the benching will catapult him to a strong second half, building off the performance against Cincinnati.