Run game adds exclamation point

CINCINNATI – The exclamation point couldn't have been more appropriate – a 32-yard burst by running back Jonathan Dwyer to the Bengals' 8-yard line with just over one minute remaining in a game the Steelers were leading by seven points.

All that was left to do after that was line up in victory formation, take a knee, and celebrate.

Dwyer's dash capped a 17-carry, 122-yard night on the ground, an effort that spearheaded a Steelers' rushing attack that accounted for a season-high 167 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per carry in Sunday night's 24-17 victory over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

Dwyer started and finished at running back as the Steelers improved to 3-3 and moved to within one game in the loss column of first-place Baltimore (5-2) in the AFC North Division.

Dwyer had been inactive for the Steelers' past two games and hadn't played since fumbling during the second quarter of the Steelers' loss on Sept. 23 at Oakland. But with running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman shelved by injuries, another opportunity came Dwyer's way.

He embraced it.

"It was a blessing," Dwyer said. "Two of my teammates and my brothers went down but it was an opportunity, and the next man is supposed to step up. As a unit, we wanted to fill that void. There's no letdown even though our top two guys went down. That was our main focus going into this game for all of us young guys to step up."

Dwyer averaged 7.2 yards per carry while amassing his career-high 122 yards on the ground and authoring the second 100-yard game of his career (he had 107 yards on 11 carries on Oct. 9, 2011 against Tennessee at Heinz Field).

Dwyer posted that career high while working behind an offensive line that was asked to make a couple of significant personnel adjustments, in the form of Doug Legursky at center for Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Adams at right tackle for Marcus Gilbert.

"To be honest with you they played well," Dwyer said. "It's probably one of the best groups we've had. You can tell by the tenacity of (left guard) Willie (Colon), almost getting in a fight during a play. All that did was fire us up. These guys like to run-block and be physical.

"It shows the talent here. That standard is the standard here. We lost our All-Pro player, Maurkice Pouncey, and Doug stepped up tremendously. It shows how talented we are and that we try to live up to that high standard."

The revitalized ground game also helped the Steelers control the ball for a season-high 37:30.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger recognized Dwyer and some of the other appropriate contributors toward that end.

"Awesome," Roethlisberger assessed. "I'm proud of a lot of guys who stepped up. Him (Dwyer), (running back Chris) Rainey, (running back Baron) Batch, Doug Legursky playing center, playing great.

"Not to take anything away from the guys who are usually out there but we never have a doubt that those guys can't step up and play great. I'm just really proud of the performance and running the ball out there at the end."

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