By Matthew Marczi
With Le’Veon Bell not expected to be ready to play for at least another week or two and, more significantly, the news that LaRod Stephens-Howling suffered a torn ACL, it begs the question, is a reunion with Jonathan Dwyer even an option at this point for the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Of course, that news would be delightful to hear for the many fans that were disappointed, if not outraged, over his release, even if there were justifiable reasons for the team parting ways with the fourth-year back. But mitigating circumstances have radically reshaped the way the Steelers view their stable of running backs on the roster.
One big factor, no doubt, is the fact that Isaac Redman fumbled the ball twice in yesterday’s opening day loss. As exhibited last season, head coach Mike Tomlin is rather unforgiving with regard to turnovers, and will bench players who fumble even if it is not in the team’s best interests.
Redman’s first fumble was the result of a sloppy exchange, caused by a miscommunication in personnel, and was recovered in the end zone by the Tennessee Titans for a touchback. The second fumble, at least, Redman was able to recover..
The running game struggled significantly in the home opener regardless of who was in the backfield as the offensive line struggled to open holes for its backs. The team also lost Maurkice Pouncey four minutes into the game. The injury also affected the outside blocking, as it forced Kelvin Beachum to move over from tight end to center.
As it currently stands, Redman and Felix Jones are the only healthy backs on the roster. Even if you include Will Johnson, he is still nursing a hamstring injury that he described as “tender to the touch”. He can eat a couple of carries in an emergency situation, but the Steelers would certainly like to avoid that scenario.
With Redman’s fumbles and ineffectiveness and Jones’ inexperience with the playbook, Dwyer would seem to make a lot of sense on the surface, and it would not be shocking if the team approaches him, as he remains a free agent after visiting with the New York Giants.
One has to wonder, however, if the Steelers have burned that bridge with Dwyer. After being released, Dwyer said on Twitter that he has a chip on his shoulder now and that “they will regret it”, they, of course, being the Steelers. If Dwyer has another opportunity, he may very well favor moving on elsewhere.
It is also important to consider that Dwyer is far more of a power back whose strength is not his vision or shiftiness or abilities as a receiver. The Steelers may be interested in bringing in another back that possesses those abilities rather than Dwyer, whose skill set is far closer to that of the backs already on the roster. Alvester Alexander could be called up from the practice squad. In fact, that may very well be the most likely move.
Nonetheless, it is an interesting possibility to consider a hypothetical reunion between the Steelers and Dwyer. While there were good reasons for the split—primarily his contract—there are also good reasons to at least consider a reunion if the two sides could make amends.