Jonathan Dwyer endorses 'Rac'

Updated: November 1, 2012, 1:41 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer has been a revelation in place of Rashard Mendenhall, who remains slowed by a strained right Achilles. But Dwyer said Wednesday that Mendenhall should get his starting job back when he's healthy enough to return.

Mendenhall practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, and his status for Sunday's game is uncertain. Backup Isaac Redman, who missed last week's game against the Redskins, also returned to practice.

In their absence, the 5-foot-11, 229-pound Dwyer has gained more than 100 yards in each of his first two career starts. He's the first Steelers running back in four seasons to crack 100 yards rushing in consecutive games, and is drawing comparisons to former Steeler Jerome Bettis.

But the 23-year-old Dwyer, who is in his third season, thinks "Rac," as the Steelers call Mendenhall, shouldn't lose his starting job because of an injury.

"I mean, Rac is the guy," Dwyer told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Rac has been here for years, and they drafted him in the first round to be a starter. That's his room and we complement him."

Mendenhall, 25, sat out the Steelers' first three games as he recovered from offseason surgery on a torn ACL. Redman was tabbed to fill his starting spot, but the Steelers' ground attack sputtered. It has been a force, however, since Dwyer was inserted into the lead role.

Mendenhall gained 68 yards in his season debut Oct. 7, but injured his Achilles in the Oct. 11 game against the Titans.

Dwyer didn't practice Wednesday because of a quadriceps injury that sidelined him for the final plays of the fourth quarter Sunday. He's expected to return to practice Thursday.

Redman, 27, told the newspaper that it doesn't really matter who starts.

"When all three of us are healthy, we're all capable of being in the game and contributing," Redman told the Post-Gazette.

Dwyer's 5.2 yards-per-carry average ranks sixth in the NFL. And the Steelers' rushing attack, once ranked 31st in the NFL in yards per game, has risen to 21st.

Information from ESPN AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley and The Associated Press was used in this report.