Rashard Mendenhall fumbled twice on four carries this past Sunday. Isaac Redman hasn't broken a run longer than 6 yards since his 147-yard game on Nov. 4. And Chris Rainey is explosive, but he's not durable enough to be a featured back.
That leaves Dwyer, the most consistent running back for the Steelers this season. This isn't to say Dwyer will produce on the same level as Ray Rice or Trent Richardson. But Dwyer gives the Steelers' running game the best chance to succeed because, unlike Mendenhall and Redman, he can be effective running the ball in between the tackles or bouncing to the outside.
Dwyer's production has been stellar the past three games. (He's averaged 43.3 yards.) This has come when the Steelers went with a running back-by-committee approach, which flopped miserably. In the two games when Dwyer was the featured back and received a bulk of the carries, he gained 122 yards at Cincinnati and 107 yards against Washington. That's two 100-yard games in two starts, which is a pretty good success rate.
Dwyer has received some tough love from Tomlin over the years. It was only seven weeks ago when Dwyer didn't suit up for two games after fumbling in Oakland. Now, turnovers and ineffectiveness in the run game have led Tomlin back to Dwyer.
This will be an important stretch run for Dwyer. He's playing for his starting job not only now but also for the future. With Mendenhall being an unrestricted free agent in March, Dwyer has a chance to convince the Steelers that he's their back of the future.