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Redman confident he can handle full workload

| Friday, June 8, 2012, 3:39 p.m.
Steelers running back Issac Redman during OTAs at Heinz Field June 7, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Admittedly, Isaac Redman has a chip on his shoulder.

The Steelers fourth-year running back, thrust into the spotlight with Rashard Mendenhall sidelined with a torn ACL that's unlikely to mend before the regular-season opener in Denver, is itching to prove he can carry the load for a remodeled offense.

“Ever since I've been here, I've been doubted by everybody — except the players and coaches,” Redman said. “They understand the type of player I am, and it's why they've kept me around. They see something in me, so I never doubt myself.

“I'm ready to get out there. Hopefully, I'll surprise everybody.”

Redman is confident he's both durable and good enough to spearhead a ground game that sputtered for much of this past season. He wasn't spectacular, yet steady in rushing for 121 yards on 17 carries in a 29-23 playoff overtime loss in Denver.

It was a solid performance that convinced coach Mike Tomlin that Redman should be his featured back when the Steelers open training camp next month at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.

“I was ready when the playoff game came,” said Redman, who stepped into the lineup after Mendenhall's injury in the regular-season finale in Cleveland. “I prepared all year as if I was the starting running back.

“I knew I was an injury away from having to be that guy who steps up. I was ready when my number was called.”

At 6-feet, 230 pounds, the Bowie State product is strong enough physically. However, he concedes it's far more challenging to adapt mentally.

“It's a different thing when you have to be that guy week in and week out,” said Redman, who re-signed with the Steelers in April. “Your mindset has to be totally different to take more hits.”

Redman carried the ball sparingly the past two seasons. He had 162 career rushing attempts, compared to Mendenhall's 552.

Redman isn't likely to prove a thing during next week's minicamp. In reality, he may not have to, considering he's the anchor of a young running back corps, which includes Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay, Baron Batch, and rookie Chris Rainey.

“We're trying to help each other out,” Redman said. “I think I'm catching on quicker than the younger guys, so I'm trying to help them to easily understand the concepts of this offense.”

Redman, though, has stayed up nights to study a playbook drafted by first-year offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

“It's tough right now because everybody's trying to learn this playbook,” Redman said. “You can't really play as fast you would like to because we're doing a lot of thinking right now.

“It's been a learning process. By the time we get to training camp, we'll have this thing down. I want to come into camp mentally ready to play.”

Redman said the playbook is significantly different than last year's.

“It's difficult because it's new,” he said. “When we hit on all cylinders, we won't have to think about what we're doing when we break the huddle.

“I couldn't imagine going through a lockout and having to learn everything in minicamp. But having these OTAs and minicamps is the first stepping stone toward mastering this offense.”

Redman isn't sure if the Steelers will run more this season. But he's certain he'll be expected to carry the load until — or if — Mendenhall returns.

“Rashard and I really haven't spoken that much,” Redman said. “We both understand that he's working as hard as he can to get back. I'm working hard to lead this team until he gets back to 100 percent, and I don't doubt that I can.”

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