After the debacle in Cleveland on Sunday and the poor performance from the Pittsburgh Steelers ground game – in which they gained 45 yards on 20 carries and fumbled the ball seven times – Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin took some action that he probably should have taken a couple weeks ago.
Tomlin has promoted running back Jonathan Dwyer to the starter’s role, while Rashard Mendenhall – who was listed as the starter even when he was hurt for three games at the start of the season – has been demoted to No. 3 on the depth chart behind Isaac Redman.
“He’s been consistently the most productive guy,” Tomlin said of Dwyer. “He’ll start for us and get the bulk of the carries.”
Dwyer has been the Steelers most productive back ever since he got his first start of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals. On the season he has averaged 4.4 yards per carry, gaining 429 yards on 98 carries and became the only Steelers back to post back-to-back 100-yard games in four years when he accomplished the feat in against the Bengals and Redskins.
Mendenhall on the other hand hasn’t been effective since returning from a torn ACL suffered last season. He fumbled twice in only four carries on Sunday and has averaged only 3.3 yards per carry on the season, gaining only 113 yards on 34 attempts.
It’s no coincidence that the Steelers’ offense has been at its best when Dwyer was getting the bulk of the carries, something Tomlin is hoping the unit can repeat.
In other depth-chart news, wide receiver Mike Wallace is now listed as a co-starter along with Emmanuel Sanders. With Antonio Brown likely coming back to action against the Ravens on Sunday, that could mean a likely demotion for Wallace as well.
Even when he was holding out, Wallace was always listed as the starter on the depth chart. Wallace has had problems all season holding onto the football and his production is way down.
It looks as if Tomlin’s patience is wearing thin with both veterans as both Mendenhall and Wallace could be playing their way out of Pittsburgh.