By Jeremy Hritz
Recently, Pittsburgh Steelers starting running back Isaac Redman was interviewed by Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley of 970 AM, ESPN Pittsburgh Sports Radio. In the interview, several items worthy of discussion were raised, but nothing was more notable than the confidence that marked Redman’s comments throughout the interview. Redman, entering his third season at 27 years of age from Bowie State, made it clear that he is not simply satisfied being the starting running back for the Steelers: “I don’t want to be a guy just filling in at the time, I want to come in and be one of the best running backs in the NFL.” If he can make it happen, the efficacy of the Steelers’ ground game will improve drastically from a season ago.
One of the biggest changes that Redman underwent this offseason came through his grueling workouts, in which he made the indicator of his success throwing up. Redman explained to Ilkin and Wolfley that his workouts were so intense that he vomited as a result. He also became conscientious this offseason about his diet, becoming strict about what he ate, and placing an emphasis on consuming lots of fruits and vegetables. Currently, Redman weighs in at 237 pounds, down from 243 last year at this time, and he says he expects to be at 230 when the season starts. The change in eating habits and the consequence drop in weight could result in a shiftier, quicker Redman, and one that in his words transforms his reputation from “Red Zone Redman,” to “All the Way Redman.”
Redman also talked about the commitment that offensive coordinator Todd Haley is making to the ground game, and how David Johnson will now be a true fullback, rather than a hybrid, something that is satisfying to the third year running back, as he believes that “it is going to help.”
The most noteworthy comment made by Redman in the interview came whenever the role of the running backs in the passing game was discussed. According to Redman, Haley is emphasizing the importance of involving the running backs in the passing game and is deemphasizing the approach of former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. According to Redman, “we’re not chipping every time, we are getting out on our routes. Last year was automatic chip every time.” Under Haley, the running backs are responsible for calling for the chip block and letting the tackle know, whereas in previous seasons, it was simply to be expected by the tackles.
Ultimately, what this reveals is one of the greatest differences in offensive philosophies between Haley and Arians. It appears that Haley is making the running game a priority, and making the running backs significant contributors in the passing game. Essentially, Haley is expecting his running backs to be versatile and able to make plays beyond running the football. During Arians time with the Steelers, running backs caught on average 53.4 passes per season, with the highest coming in 2010, when the running backs combined for 58 receptions. It will be worth tracking during the season whether or not Haley’s focus will result in more receptions by running backs, and more importantly, whether or not those receptions are helpful in earning first downs and scoring touchdowns.
While there has been a great deal of uncertainty as to whether or not the offensive players would accept the new offense, early indications, especially those by Redman, reveal that Haley is earning the buy in of his players. With the running backs knowing what is expected of them and having an expanded role in the offense, it isn’t a stretch to believe that this unit will be more productive than it has been in the past five years.
As Redman bluntly stated in the interview, “it’s time to go to work.”
You can listen to the interview with Redman below: