Fancy fantasy football: Pittsburgh Steelers follow bouncing ball

      November 28, 2012 @ 15:35:28 PDT

Pages 1 | 2 | all

See if you can follow this one.

In his first game back after missing four because of a strained Achilles' tendon, in Week 11, Rashard Mendenhall was the unquestioned starter. He rushed 11 times for 33 yards and caught three passes for 17 yards against the Baltimore Ravens.

In the same contest, Jonathan Dwyer carried the ball 12 times for 55 yards and caught three balls for 26 yards. Isaac Redman sustained a concussion in the first quarter and didn't return. Byron Leftwich made his first (and only) start in 2012 in place of Ben Roethlisberger (dislocated rib, shoulder sprain).

On to Week 12, when Pittsburgh's starting RB remained a mystery until close to game time. The starting quarterback, however, wouldn't: The virtually ancient Charlie Batch would be taking snaps in place of Leftwich (two fractured ribs) versus the Cleveland Browns.

Mendenhall ran four times for six yards. Dwyer made nine attempts for 19 yards and caught two passes for nine more. Redman carried twice for seven yards and hauled in a ball for 15. And Chris Rainey rushed five times for 17 yards and a touchdown as well as recorded four receptions for 15 yards. Pretty. Ugly.

Of course, the Steelers' eight turnovers placed paper bags on the heads of those hideous totals. Batch threw three picks. The team fumbled eight times and lost five of them.

Check out how all the turnovers and troop deployments unfolded.

At 12:00 of the first quarter, Mendenhall's second tote resulted in a lost fumble. He didn't see the ball again until 5:19 of the third quarter.

At 14:25 of the second frame, Redman received his second touch, which he fumbled away to Cleveland. His next chance came at 2:38 of the third quarter.

Dwyer waited until his 10th touch of the game, at the 3:20 mark of the second stanza, to lose control of the ball and see someone from the opponent recover it. He didn't get the ball again until 9:19 remained.

For more than a quarter's worth of action, Rainey appeared to be Mike Tomlin's knight in dulled armor. At 1:51 of the second quarter - in the two-minute offense - the fourth man up also fumbled on his second touch of the afternoon.

But he recovered it, so, naturally, he stayed on the field. The others were in the doghouse because their fumbles ended up in the hands of the enemy. But they would all have cameos before the final gun went off.

Mendenhall committed his second fumble of the day at the 14:15 mark of Quarter No. 4, on his fourth rushing attempt. Fullback Will Johnson fell on it, but Mendenhall's day was finished. On the next drive came Dwyer's lone fourth-quarter carry, which resulted in negative yardage.

The Steelers were in catch-up mode for the rest of the game. Rainey's fourth touch of the final period, at 2:25 remaining, led to his second fumble of the contest. This time, the Browns came up with it. Rainey took a seat.

Pittsburgh got the ball back at their 3-yard line with less than 30 seconds remaining, still down by six. Johnson, the fullback, lined up in the backfield, next to Batch, as the Steelers launched their pathetic attempt at a virtual miracle.

A short time later, perhaps the sloppiest game in the team's history was over. Mercifully.

Pittsburgh Steelers HC Mike Tomlin
They're lookin' to you, Coach

Whose sloppiness, though? Tomlin has finally acknowledged that his team needs to roll with a lead runner. Three weeks ago, Mendenhall was Pittsburgh's total package. Three weeks later, Dwyer's body of work is sufficient enough to give him the nod.

The reaction to Tomlin's choice has been mixed, but more people seem to agree than not. I lean that way as well, for multiple reasons.

But I'm not certain by any means, whereas folks who take advantage of the outlet with which social media provides them are quite sure. Dwyer? Not Mendenhall? Oh, by the way, no one's saying, What about Isaac Redman?! It's like watching a replay of the 2012 presidential race.

Players at all positions made critical mistakes in that tilt, but they didn't pay the same price. Emmanuel Sanders fumbled twice and lost one of them to Cleveland, too. He's now considered a "co-starter" with Mike Wallace. (What, exactly, is a "co-starter"?) Batch, unfortunately for the Steelers, is their only alternative in their Week 13 rematch with the Nevermores.

The coaching staff, meanwhile, gets a pass for its repeated fumbles of personnel decisions, I assume because they didn't lose any of their running backs to the Browns.

Tomlin isn't sure what to do. If Big Ben were healthy, the outcomes of their last two games, and of their backs' touches, might've been different. A fortunate bounce here and an unlucky one there, and the depth chart might look different, too. It's undoubtedly subject to change again next week.

Hopefully, you're not relying on any of these players as your fantasy season winds down. If you are, it's time to scramble to come up with other possibilities. Because Pittsburgh's running backs can't rely on their coaching staff to devise a credible plan and stick with it. They're too caught up in what happens from one play to the next.

Facebook Twitter Google +

Pages 1 | 2 | all

About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

Don't miss these great reports....


Recent KFFL releases