A Small Window For Isaac Redman

By Jeremy Hritz

Isaac Redman had two solid games at the conclusion of the 2011 season, though one of them came against the porous Cleveland Browns and was adulterated by two fumbles. Against the Denver Broncos in the Wild Card playoff game, Redman carried for 121 yards, with a 7.1 yard per carry average. His performance against the Broncos was unquestionably the best of his career. In the 2010 season, Redman came through in the clutch against the Baltimore Ravens in a Sunday Night game in which he scored the game-winning touchdown on a pass from Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter.

Are the flashes that Redman has shown indicative of his ability to carry a full workload for the Steelers, or is he best suited to serve as a change of pace for Rashard Mendenhall? Whichever he is destined to do, Mendenhall’s injury will most likely garner him an opportunity to make a statement at the beginning of the season about which role he is best suited for in 2012 and beyond.

Behind a mediocre offensive line, Mendenhall did not match his 2010 production, but his tentativeness and tiptoeing were equally responsible for his average performance. Compounding the situation was his unfortunate ACL tear against Cleveland that has created some uncertainty about his timetable to return to action and about his effectiveness when he does. Mendenhall has proven that he can be an effective runner as he did in 2010, scoring on several long runs during the regular season and playing well in the post season, with the exception of his fumble in the Super Bowl. There is no question that Mendenhall, a young 24, will be back on the field when he recovers from his injury next season, but when that happens is yet to be known. More importantly, is the question of how productive he can be when and if he does return. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert even said on Monday that Mendenhall is a candidate to open the season on the PUP list.

These uncertainties may have opened a small window for Redman.

Many have wondered about how Redman would play if he had a full season at running back as the starter, and if he is capable of carrying such a load. Over his three-year career with the Steelers, Redman has gained 729 yards on 162 attempts, which comes out to 4.5 yards per carry. Redman’s NFL sample size is too small to draw the conclusion that he could be successful as the starting running back of the Steelers, but when looking at his regular season statistics along with his performance against Denver in the playoffs, it is difficult not to be somewhat intrigued.

Redman has something to prove being undrafted out of Bowie State, where as a collegiate player, he rushed for 3300 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. He will have an opportunity at the beginning of the season to assert himself in the Steelers offense. New offensive coordinator Todd Haley has utilized both a workhorse and running-back-by-committee approach during his time in Arizona and Kansas City, so it will be interesting to see what he chooses to do with his options at running back in Pittsburgh.

While Redman may never be a feature-back in Pittsburgh, or for any other team in the NFL, he is going to get a critical and thorough look this year from the coaching staff. If he can consistently produce and make plays as he did against the Broncos, it will make for an interesting story line once Mendenhall is healthy and ready to return.

  • ACC

    The more I follow the NFL, the more I see MANY first round picks have been purely outplayed by undrafted ex-HOME DEPOT guys. It’s truly a hit and miss this bit of pro sports draft thing…

  • Tevor

    Well stated, and I agree entirely.
    While Redman may not yet be proven to be (some of you out there in Steeler Nation think he could be… don’t you?) the kind of player who could carry a team rushing 25+ times per game, he is the best blocking back on this team, he is a capable receiving back, and he’s got the goods to move the markers on 3rd downs.
    He is a “quality” starter, even if he may not be an every-down “quantity” runner.
    With the potential of Clay, Dwyer and a healthy Batch, I think Haley is looking at a pretty good “committee” to begin the season with, along with the hope that Mendy comes back at some point and regains his moves from past years with a hopefully improved line.
    I think the Steelers have a guy who can be productive for 10 years.

  • Intropy

    Mendenhall is an excellent runner. He can mix and match styles from speed to the outside, to change of direction scatback, to three yards and a cloud of dust. The two issues I see with his running are the poor line he runs behind and indecision. Key there was that I said he was an excellent “runner.” But I’m not sure that’s enough the way the league is changing. Take for example Ray Rice. Without question Mendenhall is superior to Ray Rice in just about every way when running the ball. But Rice is also a threat to receive a pass out of the backfield and a good late-play outlet which adds tremendously to his value. I think the Steelers could really use a weapon like that.

    Is that Redman? Maybe. We’ve definitely seen him make some great plays catching the ball, but the sample size is quite small. But the more I consider that style of play, the more interested I get in seeing what Baron Batch can do since his college system and tape really highlights that aspect of the game.

  • Heathicus

    Redman is the better back. Mendenhall lacks power and almost always goes down first contact. He also rarely ever falls forward. Mendenhall is often indecisive and his acceleration is nothing above average, so this leads to many botched runs.

    Redman runs with tenacity – you can see just how powerful this guy is and how hard he strives to go down FORWARD every time. It’s absolutely rare to see him go backward even with multiple tacklers on him. He’s the powerback we can rely on – I see no reason, what his build + what he has shown so far, that he can’t carry the majority of the work.

    That said, I would love to see both being used. However, I would like to see Redman used more often than Mendenhall rather than the reverse – at worst, a 50/50 split, not this 80/20 garbage split that we see now.

  • Fu-Schnickens

    If I’m Haley, I’d put Mendenhall on notice, that being that you’re reputation is shaky at best right now on this team. It’s also a contract year so Mendy’s got a real horse in the race. If he comes anywhere close to less than the best of the committee, I’d tell him to bounce or be bounced. This guy’s been given more chances than just about any running back in the league. Despite the poor line, he’s NEVER been the breakout back that a highly touted first-round draft pick from Illinois should have been on a continual basis. With the salary cap being what it is, his hold on his job should be even more tenuous.

  • Jb

    Stop it! With the Mendenhall is a great (potentially) back. It’s not just the line, or his dancing. He is just not that tough, along with that he simply runs too high. He is Tim Worely all over again. Look at most of the good backs in the league right now, they all can get low (deep bending of their knees) while still running with power, or even when making cuts. Mendenhall is a track-star type back. It’s the same as with the Raiders who love receivers who are sprint guys, but these same players can’t run a good route, or catch the ball.

    The last long run Mendenhall had is now two seasons ago. The league has adjusted to what he likes to do and he does not seem to have the power/will to break free for long gains. If he doesn’t get a gap when going around the edges, he is nothing special. Mendenhall is not a victim of the Steelers offensive line. For whatever reason he is not able to make the connection between his great physical skills and the feel for the game, that every great football players has.

  • Tom

    In some circles, to support Redman too much is to be mocked…and some people are afraid to do it..

    But I believe, and have believed all of this year, that Redman is a better Running back for this offense.

    He runs like Barry Foster, low to the ground and pound. When you have a subpar offensive line, that helps. Jerome Bettis made his line look better than it did because he could pound it in.

    Redman amazes me sometimes because you’ll think he’s tackled, and somehow he ends up another several yards down the field due to his refusal to go down. One Steeler said that the Browns defense was arguing with each other on the field about who was going to tackle him.

    My bold prediction is that Redman, unless he is injured, will start every game this year and will be one of the top running backs in the league. Like we saw in the Denver game, when he runs like a bowling ball, knocking people down along the way, he will get more frequent big gains than Mendenhall did.

  • Paul

    Steeler have to draft a RB or two, non of these guys are capable of playing in the NFL and be counted upon. Redman is iffy at best

  • Joe D

    You must be the only person with those veiwpoints of Mendenhall…
    he does tooo much tip toeing or spinning… i never viewed Mendenhall as a good runner. So what he has over 1000 yards, you give someone enough carries, they should be over 1000. Take away some long runs, and his average is miserable.

  • Wdmason

    The Isaac Redman Show Part 1 CIAA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jixyYRkaC-k
    The Isaac Redman Show Part 2 CIAA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca1KRR62vvo

  • David

    I really like the way Redman runs hard in the trenches. Mendenhall definitely has that extra level of speed (if he ever gets into open space). Here’s one thing we may be forgetting though. Redman runs tough but hasn’t been called upon to do it for an entire season. While he gains those extra yards and falls forward for a game or two, or for a series or two, we can’t conclude that he’ll last all season, running that hard ’till the end. I hope that he wouldn’t burn out with a whole season of work but having never seen him run a whole season — we can’t compare how Mendenhall runs after 12 weeks of a full load to how Redman runs while starting only a handful of games and being fresh off the bench.

  • Pete

    Redman for my money is the better back. You can say the line is poor but it’s what the RB does with that line. Redman hits his holes with decisiveness and always tries to get positive yardage. Mendenhall is not the best inside runner. He’s better on the edge because of his quickness.

    The way backs are used today, you’re not going to see a back pound away all game, every game and the QB make 10-15 passes. It’s the QB who are getting more work. So less wear and tear on the RB. Redman is more like Foster and Bettis in his running style. He’s tough to take down by a single tackler. Defenders don’t worry about tackling Mendenhall.

    They have to play Mendenhall more to justify his draft position. But with Mendy injured, I hope Redman gets the majority of carries with the others in support. Compared to Redman, Mendenhall is not worth the 1st round pick. Drafted in the 1st round he should be head and shoulders superior to Redman but he’s not. If Mendenhall is worth it, then Redman is an absolute steal.

  • kevin

    You take away his poor runs and his average is spectacular. That argument carries no weight.

  • kevin

    There was a time when Mendenhall was the guy who lead the league in yards after contact. That was not 2011, however. I am hoping he can get back to that point.

  • kevin

    Do you have anything to support your opinion?

  • Stevegeddes

    Isaac never gives up he shows what a true STEELERS running back is all about ! Steve

  • Allbiznes1

    I know I might get some grief for this post, but I think the Steelers should take a serious look at signing P. Hillis….as a major ground and pound back with excellent receiving skills he could be a huge addition for the Steelers. Two main factors…price and him staying healthy.

  • Allbiznes1

    Listen, I’m reading all of everyone’s posts and as much as I am a major Steeler fan I am not blind. You can’t even put Redman in the top 20 starting RBs in the NFL for next season. He is a backup for a reason and has many issues as a complete, star RB. Could he get a team 1,000 yds sure…..but that is crap for RB’s in today’s NFL. With the direction of our WRs and the passing attack I want a major pass-catching/running back. We have a adequate stable of RBs, but not a game changer…….and I know all of you reading these posts wants a dynamic game changing RB.
    I know we would never have a shot at getting him but Arian Foster is a free agent…restricted….but I would give up my first round pick for that game changing stud. Imagine that stud coming out of the Steelers backfield…..with our WR corps…..wishful thinking!

  • Kingtut499

    Redman, Clay and Barron Batch should be all we need next year. Let Mendy go to Dancing with the Stars. Hines will have time to train him. Go Haley & Go Steelers. A new Era in the Burgh!

  • Kingtut499

    Once Colbert, Coach Tomlin and Coach Haley get the Guard’s and Tackles they want, anyone RB on this roster should be able to run in Haleys system. Running and throwing out of 2 TE sets, play action passes and screens to the Rb’s will be new for teams to defend. Haley is unpredictable in passing downs and always set up a play for the next big one. Predictable Arians will go to 5 wide and no running back on 3rd and 5 and get Ben killed because he cant read defenses. Haley should help Ben identify pre snap reads instead of frelancing and running around praying Brown gets open Because Wallace is doubled.

  • Yuup

    My question has always been can he run like he does and exert that much energy into his runs over any long stretch of being the main ball carrier. Its easier to give it all youve got when you are carrying the ball 5-7 times a game. But what can he do with 20+ for 6 straight weeks? Will his aggression change? Will he still be fighting for EVERY yard? Or will he wear down? Thats my only question about him. When he carries the ball, its obvious he has talent. But the way he runs, can he make it last over a long stretch?