Going into last night’s AFC North showdown, the Steelers were without their top-2 RBs in Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman, leaving 3rd-stringer Jonathan Dwyer to carry the load for the Steelers’ 31st-ranked rushing offense. That wouldn’t be the case Sunday night, as they gashed the Bengals defense for 167 yards on 29 carries(5.8 yards per carry), highlighted by Dwyer, the third-year running back out of Georgia Tech who was making his first career start and ran for a career-high 122 yards, including a 32-yard gain that iced the game in the final seconds.
Its’ also worth noting the Steelers were without Pro-Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, leaving them with Doug Legursky, who is Pro Football Focus’ 33rd-ranked center based on run-blocking ability. They were also missing RT Marcus Gilbert, leaving rookie Mike Adams to make his first start in Gilbert’s spot.
The sudden emergence of the Steelers running game helped them to dominate the time of possession as they held the ball for 37:30 of the game, giving their struggling defense plenty of rest and opportunity to keep the Bengals offense confused and disorganized.
With defensive tackle Pat Sims, the teams best interior run-defender set to return from the physically unable to perform list this week, expect to see him implemented into the rotation plenty going forward.