Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Breakout Candidate: Jonathan Dwyer
In an effort to improve the league’s 26th-ranked rush offense (96.1 yards per game) last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers used the 48th overall pick in April’s draft on running back Le’Veon Bell. He immediately moved to the top of the projected depth chart for Pittsburgh, ahead of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, the team’s top two rushers from last season.
But a right foot injury suffered last Monday night looks likely to sideline Bell for six weeks, and has left the Steelers looking at other options to lead their rushing attack. They traded for Felix Jones on Friday in an effort to bolster their running back depth, but could one of the incumbents from 2012 emerge?
Dwyer led the Steelers in rushing last season, with 623 yards on 156 carries along with two touchdowns, despite missing three games. He had been the subject of some trade rumors and thought to not be a lock to make the Steelers’ 53-man roster at different points in the offseason, but he remains in Pittsburgh and now opportunity may be knocking.
There have been conflicting reports on Bell’s foot injury, ranging from a potential Lisfranc injury to a “small ligament tear”, and the only thing that seems clear is he will not need surgery. That is good news, but we only need to look back to 2012 and the case of Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew for how Lisfranc injuries can linger. Jones-Drew was originally sidelined in Week 7, the Jaguars’ sixth game, and his status was a weekly question before he finally had surgery in late December. Bell may not be dealing with a Lisfranc issue, but Jones-Drew’s situation still serves as a cautionary tale for foot injuries in general.
Bell’s injury is not the only to affect Pittsburgh’s running back situation, as Redman missed the team’s most recent preseason game with a “stinger” and LaRod Stephens-Howling has missed time with a knee issue. I see Dwyer being the clear No. 1 running back for the Steelers early in the season, and then keeping a significant role even after Bell returns to action.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.