Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE
No one will argue who's contributed more, Jonathan Dwyer, or either Mike Wallace or Antonio Brown. But after Dwyer's 122-yard performance against the Bengals in Week 7, one can't help but wonder if he wasn't placed in the doghouse after one fumble (against Oakland), what might the Steelers have done against the run-stopping-challenged Titans?
According to Robinson, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin placed a message on the team bulletin board that Dwyer wouldn't play in the Steelers' subsequent games against Philadelphia (Week 5) and Tennessee (Week 6) as a result of that fumble.
While there's obviously a level of leeway given to the stars of the team, Dwyer wasn't the only Steelers player to fumble against Oakland. Wide receiver Antonio Brown put the ball on the ground twice, losing one of them, and Mike Wallace fumbled, but was able to recover it near the spot he lost it.
Wallace dropped three passes in Pittsburgh's 24-17 win over Cincinnati in Week 7. Brown dropped a touchdown pass against Philadelphia.
It's not unfair to suggest Brown and Wallace have a bit more leeway from such punishment, but is it wise to sit a guy who would later go off for 122 rushing yards in a crucial road win, when 10 day prior to that, the Steelers faced a worse running defense in Tennessee and ran for considerably fewer yards as a team (56 yards on 22 carries)?
It begs the chicken vs. the egg question, was Dwyer's performance the result of his benching, or would he have produced as optimal a performance if he wasn't singled out after the loss at Oakland?
Dwyer didn't fumble against Cincinnati, and had an otherwise outstanding performance, even earning nomination for the FedEx Ground Player of the Week (he's facing pretty much insurmountable competition from Tennessee's Chris Johnson, who rushed for 195 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns, and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, who had 153 yards on 23 carries in the Vikings' win over Arizona, but it's nice to see Dwyer nominated).
It just begs the question of why a two-game benching (or one with one more attributed to him earning his way back on the field) was warranted, and in a post ipso facto way, wondering which was more prevalent in the last two games; Dwyer's benching leading to a big rushing week against the Bengals, or his lack of participation leading to a poor rushing effort against Tennessee?