Redman isn't solution for Steelers' offense
Saturday, September 19, 2009
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Of all the ridiculous rants coming from the over-reactionary crowd after the Steelers' first game, this easily takes the top prize:
They gotta play Redman!
That's the solution to the problems with the running game.
Throw running backs Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall out with the garbage and put the ball -- not to mention the team's Super Bowl hopes -- in the hands of a kid who never played in a major college game let alone had a touch in a real NFL game.
Yeah, that'll work.
Give me a break.
I guess I understand the fascination with rookie free agent Isaac Redman, especially after Parker and Mendenhall had a hard time finding yards in the opening-game win against the Tennessee Titans. A lot of people tend to think the next guy in line automatically will do a better job. That's why the backup quarterback usually is the most popular player on any team. It doesn't matter that he's a backup for a reason, namely that he's not as good as the starter. People want to see what he can do the first time the starter loses a game or even throws an interception.
But the passion of the Redman supporters almost seems off the charts. Where does that come from? What is it based on? That Redman had a few strong runs in goal-line situations at training camp and earned the nickname "Red Zone" Redman? That he had a couple of good exhibition games playing with and against second- and third-teamers?
Give me a break.
I shouldn't have to tell you that doing it in those camp practices and exhibition games isn't the same as doing it against the Titans' great defense under the bright lights of the NFL's opening game. It also isn't the same as doing it against the Chicago Bears' defense tomorrow at Soldier Field.
Redman is on the Steelers' practice squad -- not their active roster -- for one very good reason: He's not ready for the NFL.
Certainly, he's not as good as Parker or Mendenhall.
Not yet, anyway.
At the pro level, the running-back position involves more than just toting the ball. It's about knowing the offense and understanding the assignments. It's about picking up blitzes and making the right blocks so quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doesn't get knocked into next week. It's about running the right pass routes so Roethlisberger doesn't throw silly interceptions.
Clearly, Redman is raw, a work in progress. As a Super Bowl contender, the Steelers can't afford to let him learn on the job. They have to go with the guy who is proven (Parker) and the guy who is a lot further along in the process (Mendenhall).
Not that Redman's fans want to hear that.
Of course, they don't.
They're convinced Redman is going to be the next Adrian Peterson.
Even Redman seems a bit amused by his celebrity status. "I've gone to the grocery store and people have recognized me," he said this week. "I get a lot of messages on Facebook from people saying they like the way I run. That tells me I'm doing something good here."
Redman should feel good about himself. He had a remarkable camp and exhibition season. He had no chance to make the Steelers when he signed as a free agent from Bowie State, which played opponents such as Shaw and Lincoln (Pa.) last season and lost to Slippery Rock this season. Yet, he showed enough to find his way on the practice squad and could be just an injury away from getting on the active roster, although the Steelers' coaches also like another back on their practice squad -- Justin Vincent -- because of what he could give them on special teams.
Absolutely, Redman deserves all the credit in the world.
"I like to think I'll be ready if I get the opportunity," he said. "I've been working hard and studying the playbook. To have a little bit of success like I did gives me confidence I can play on this level."
Who knows? Maybe Redman will become an NFL star. Parker was an undrafted free agent and went on to become a Pro Bowl player and Super Bowl hero.
But there's a better chance Redman won't make it big. Any of the 31 other NFL teams could have claimed him on waivers after the final cut this summer, but all passed. You would think if the guy is destined to become the next Adrian Peterson, at least one of the clubs would have recognized it.
Not to be cynical.
Ron Cook can be reached at [email="email@example.com"]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email]. More articles by this author
First published on September 19, 2009 at 12:00 am
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