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08-01-2012, 02:04 AM
Pittsburgh Steelers training camp: Prepping sans Mike Wallace
By Aditi Kinkhabwala


Reporter, NFL.com and NFL Network
Published: July 31, 2012 at 12:38 p.m.
Updated: July 31, 2012 at 08:53 p.m.

NFL.com has dispatched several writers to report on the 32 training camps over the next few weeks. Aditi Kinkhabwala details her visit with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

At St. Vincent's College in Latrobe, Pa., where the idyllic campus is spread out wide, Steelers fans are plentiful and our ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney, has been a regular.


1. The Steelers might not miss Rashard Mendenhall all that desperately in the early going. Mendenhall, the Steelers' starting running back, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Week 17 of last season and is on the physically unable to perform list, where he'll most likely start the season. In his stead, third-year back Isaac Redman has looked awfully forceful. The 6-foot, 230-pound Redman is solid, strong and doesn't waste time dancing behind his line. He has deceptive speed, too, and can definitely bust one out (see the 32-yard run that punctuated a 17-carry, 121-yard showing in Pittsburgh's playoff loss to the Denver Broncos). Steelers tackle Willie Colon said it best, though, regarding Redman's grind-it-out mentality: "He doesn't mind getting three yards, he doesn't mind getting five yards."

2. Yes, there was a message in receiver Antonio Brown's contract extension. Only it wasn't for Mike Wallace, as the chattering classes initially thought. "If you're here and you keep working hard, you can earn yourself something," third-year receiver Emmanuel Sanders said, confirming it was him -- and his fellow teammates -- who saw a missive in Brown's five-year deal. Wallace, of course, is the Steelers' No. 1 receiver, who as of this writing is still not in camp. The restricted free agent refuses to attend until the Steelers offer him a new contract. The Steelers have refused to re-open contract talks until he signs his $2.7 million tender and comes to camp. Still, veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery insisted there is no transitive relationship -- or any veiled threat -- to be read between Brown's deal and Wallace's situation. "Here, they tell you exactly what they're thinking. There's no games," Cotchery said.

3. The Steelers have an impressive group of receivers, but they still need Wallace. Brown and Sanders run great routes, have good hands and are fast. Save for the recently retired Hines Ward, Cotchery is as tough a veteran leader as the Steelers could want. (Remember Cotchery's diving third-and-long catch -- WITH a pulled groin -- against the Cleveland Browns when he was with the New York Jets?) And yet, Wallace is, well, special. Santonio Holmes once told Cotchery that Wallace is absurdly fast. Cotchery didn't quite get it, until he became Wallace's teammate; now, Cotchery says Wallace is easily the fastest player he's seen in the NFL. And he runs clean routes, too. "I think the fear is," Cotchery said, "if you get up there and miss him at the line of scrimmage, you might as well just scream, 'Help!' "

4. Brett Keisel is everything you think he is. Yes, the beard -- already in midseason form -- is fun. Yes, the fact that the veteran defensive end drove a tractor to camp was fun -- ludicrously so. But Keisel is still motoring on the football field, too. He doesn't even look remotely like a guy entering his 11th season -- or like he's thinking about slowing down. "What? No," Keisel said when asked if camp gets old a decade in. "I love this."


Chris Rainey. If not for the scraggly goatee, the rookie running back out of Florida might look like he's 12. Maybe it's because he's always happy. Rainey is very serious about his role on this team, though; while the speedster might currently project as a change-of-pace back, don't tell him that. "I can do anything they ask me to. I can start," he said. Of course, he also said he was the fastest player on the team, and challenged veteran defensive back Ike Taylor to a race. (Taylor said that after nine full seasons in the NFL, he doesn't need to race anyone to prove anything.)

David DeCastro and Mike Adams. The Steelers chose the offensive linemen in the first and second rounds of April's draft with an eye on helping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stay upright for longer periods of time. DeCastro rolled an ankle Sunday, but coach Mike Tomlin said he's day-to-day. Both look the part and both are learning. Center Maurkice Pouncey -- a starter from his first day in the NFL who has been a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in both of his pro seasons -- said DeCastro is further along than he was at this stage. ("He went to Stanford," quipped Pouncey, a former Florida Gator.) The pads have only just now come on, though. And once this happened, Colon said the most obvious thing about the rookies was: "They're young."

Todd Haley. Brown said he loves the Steelers' new offensive coordinator. Running back Jonathan Dwyer said he's been great. Sanders said the Steelers "are definitely going to be attacking," and all the hullaballoo over Haley's arrival hasn't resulted in much drama. Roethlisberger appears to be getting along just fine with his new play caller, and the offense is looking comfortable. And yes, Big Ben does seem to have a lot of options these days.


"My bad on the block, bro."
-- Brown to Taylor on the sideline during Sunday's practice, after an unexpectedly hard block. Taylor laughed, the two bumped fists and hugged. Then Taylor watched -- and offered input -- while Cotchery and Brown discussed how and why Brown's cut on the route could've been sharper.


1. Why Troy Polamalu is so great, Part I: After practice Sunday, the veteran grabbed a ball boy and told him to throw him balls, so he could get some work in catching. Spying that, fellow safety Ryan Clark waited until Polamalu was done, then grabbed the same ball boy and asked him to do the same for him.

2. Why Polamalu is so great, Part II: He caught every single one of those balls with one hand.

3. Rooney might be one of the most beloved owners in the NFL. In a ball cap and suspenders, a bit hunched over by age, he still moves easily among his players, who uniformly say he's one of the best people to talk to about life (not just football). Check out Taylor's Twitter avatar. Yep, that's the 80-year-old ambassador, striking a swaggin' pose.


For all the talk about the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens getting older, both teams are better for it: Veterans help coaches teach on the sidelines, sometimes to greater effect. (Isn't it always easier to hear a critique from a peer than a coach?) The Steelers' defense, No. 1 in 2011, is returning everyone but retired linebacker James Farrior and defensive end Aaron Smith, while the offense should be more vertical. Why should this year be different from any other? The AFC North will come down to the Steelers and Ravens.

Follow Aditi Kinkhabwala on Twitter @AKinkhabwala.

Iron Shiek
08-01-2012, 11:06 AM
Check out Taylor's Twitter avatar. Yep, that's the 80-year-old ambassador, striking a swaggin' pose.



08-02-2012, 01:07 AM
Regardless of the down, Redman is ready for role

By Mark Kaboly

Published: Thursday, August 2, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated 1 hour ago

Isaac Redman knows what is expected of him this year.

With Rashard Mendenhall likely out a couple more months while recovering from offseason knee surgery, and not very much in the way of experience behind him, Redman is going to be responsible for the majority of the yards in the running game.

Apparently, it’s not going to stop there for Redman: He is going to be the Steelers’ top third-down back as well.

“Absolutely,” running back coach Kirby Wilson said.

But Wilson must not have gotten around to telling Redman.

“Kirb said that?” Redman said. “It’s news to me, but I have always done well there.”

Redman was on the field for the majority of the Steelers’ third downs last year. He doubled the third-down snaps of Mewelde Moore, who is now in Indianapolis.

Redman had 13 carries for 52 yards and seven catches on third down last year, but his biggest accomplishments came on third-and-short. He converted 10 of 11 into first downs, including his first 10.

Redman said he believes he will have plenty of help from his teammates.

“We have a lot of running backs, so who says that I will be in there the entire time plus third downs,” Redman said. “We have a lot of guys who are capable.”

But what has the Steelers wanting Redman on the field on third downs is his blocking ability: He is the team’s best third-down blocker.

“He is one of our best pass protectors. He can catch the ball, and he is an outstanding runner,” Wilson said. “He is a very smart, football smart, intelligent player. We really feel that we have a good package with him.”

But being a successful third-down back is more than picking up a blitz. It’s about knowing where the blitz is coming from, and few do that better than Redman.

“You also need to be able to read a defense and see where the blitz is coming from,” Redman said.

Backups Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay, Baron Batch and Chris Rainey have a combined 35 career attempts and 10 total games played, so the brunt of the responsibility figures to fall on Redman.

“You want to be on the field as much as possible, especially when a team trusts you. You don’t want to put yourself on the sidelines and say that you are only a first- or second-down back,” Redman said. “The more you can do, the longer they can keep you around.”