If the Steelers don’t want to put Sunday’s game on the arm of backup quarterback Byron Leftwich, they’ve got a lot of legs to move the offense.
Pittsburgh has a trio of running backs that it can turn to: Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman.
Mendenhall is the team’s top back even though he’s played in just two games this year due to knee and Achilles injuries. After missing the past four games, he practiced fully Wednesday, and looks primed to return to the field.
Dwyer has earned the nickname “The Minivan” because his punishing 5-foot-11, 229-pound frame and running style resembles former Steeler Jerome “The Bus” Bettis. Dwyer posted back-to-back 100-plus rushing yard games in Weeks 7 and 8.
Redman has been the backfield’s most recent standout. With Mendenhall and Dwyer out, the Bowie State product rushed 26 times for 147 yards and a touchdown against the New York Giants in Week 9.
“The backs are downhill backs,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday.
“Both Dwyer and Redman are hard-running guys – very difficult to tackle. You have to wrap them and take them to the ground. You’ve got to gang-tackle, those kinds of things. We will see if Rashard plays.”
Pittsburgh has only had all three healthy for one full game this season, so it’s difficult to know how they’ll use all three on Sunday if they’re all ready to play. The only other time they had all of them at their disposal, Dwyer was inactive and Mendenhall took the lead.
“It really doesn’t matter,” safety
Dallas highlighted the Ravens’ problems on run defense this year. The Ravens surrendered a franchise-high 227 rushing yards to the Cowboys on Oct. 14 and currently rank 26th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (132.0).
So the Steelers, despite their No. 21 ranking in rushing offense per game (103.8), could do some damage on the ground.
Before giving kudos to Pittsburgh’s running backs, Harbaugh pointed to the men that have blocked for them. The Steelers’ ability to mix and match running backs and still have success speaks to a strong front line.
“It starts with the offensive line,” Harbaugh said. “Their offensive line is a big, physical offensive line. They maul you. That’s their whole thing.”