If you have heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: a player can’t lose his job due to injury.
Despite his recent success as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starter, running back Jonathan Dwyer apparently buys into that adage as well, as he endorsed Rashard Mendenhall as the team’s No. 1 back when he is healthy.
Mendenhall remains slowed by a strained right Achilles. But Dwyer said Wednesday that Mendenhall should get his starting job back when he’s healthy enough to return.
“I mean, Rac is the guy,” Dwyer told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Rac has been here for years, and they drafted him in the first round to be a starter. That’s his room and we complement him.”
Mendenhall practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, and his status for Sunday’s game is uncertain.
He sat out the Steelers’ first three games as he recovered from offseason surgery on a torn ACL and gained 68 yards in his season debut Oct. 7, but injured his Achilles in the Oct. 11 game against the Titans.
Dwyer didn’t practice Wednesday because of a quadriceps injury that sidelined him for the final plays of the fourth quarter Sunday, but was expected to return to practice Thursday.
In Mendenhall’s absence, Dwyer has gained more than 100 yards in each of his first two career starts, becoming the first Steelers’ running back in four seasons to crack 100 yards rushing in consecutive games. In the process, the Georgia Tech product has drawn comparisons to former Steeler Jerome Bettis.
Dwyer’s 5.2 yards-per-carry average ranks sixth in the NFL and the Steelers’ rushing attack, once ranked 31st in the NFL in yards per game, has risen to 21st.
However Dwyer seems to know his role and that’s to be a backup to Mendenhall when he’s healthy.
But while Dwyer seems content to split carries with Mendenhall and Isaac Redman when all three are healthy, that won’t be the case as all three guys likely won’t dress on the same game. There’s no need to dress five running backs and Baron Batch and Chris Rainey have special teams roles while Dwyer and Redman do not. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin already made Dwyer inactive for two games because of that very reason.
Just because Dwyer is content with a backup role doesn’t mean that Tomlin will give him one. Tomlin is known for sticking with his veterans which is good news for Mendenhall, but at the same time the goal is winning football games and Tomlin will go the guy that gives the Steelers the best opportunity to do so.
Right now that guy is Dwyer.
But it’s good to see that he has a good head on his shoulders.