Steelers running back Chris Rainey seeks own identity
Whatever the diminutive Chris Rainey gives up in size, he makes up with immeasurable confidence.
The Steelers rookie running back sprinted onto the practice field at St. Vincent College on Friday, eager to prove he belongs in the NFL. He wanted to brush aside any doubts or lingering questions about him fitting into the Steelers' redesigned offense.
“I'm prepared for everything,” Rainey said. “I've been going through the playbook every day.”
Mostly, the fifth-round draft pick from Florida wants to prove he's his own man with a unique skill set. He isn't New Orleans' Darren Sproles or Minnesota's Percy Harvin.
“I hear those stories about my size all the time,” he said. “People compare me to Percy (Harvin), but it doesn't matter how much they compare me to other people.
“It's all about speed. And that's what separates me from the other guys. It's just a slow brew right now, but it'll come in time.”
However, at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, he can live with the Sproles comparison.
“Whatever you see in Darren Sproles, that's what you'll see in me,” said Rainey, who likens his style to the Saints' playmaker. “But I'm still Chris Rainey.”
Of course, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and running backs coach Kirby Wilson are hoping the speedy, versatile Rainey can be as productive as his idol.
Isaac Redman, who likely will get the starting nod at running back for the injured Rashard Mendenhall for the regular-season opener in Denver, is confident Rainey can deliver.
“You can't crown anybody with just jerseys and helmets on,” Redman said. “When the shoulder pads come on, we'll see who has or doesn't have it.”
Rainey has the look, at least. He covers the 40 in 4.4 seconds and possesses a plethora of open-field moves that could make him a big-play threat, particularly on special teams.
“I love special teams, and that's where I really want to contribute,” said Rainey, who led the Gators with 31 receptions in 2011. “I know I have to play special teams just to get the ball.
“I want defensive players to say, ‘(Dang), this is a good running back.' I want everyone to have confidence they can play me. I want to do everything well.”
Rainey likely will get a chance to prove himself during the preseason. He'll be vying for time with Baron Batch, John Clay and Jonathan Dwyer.
“There's always an opportunity for everybody and anybody,” Rainey added. “When you get that opportunity, you've got to take advantage of it. I'm ready to take advantage of every opportunity.”
Redman expects Haley will test Rainey in the slot and in screen situations. The running backs weren't involved much in the passing game last season.
Rainey is keenly aware of this. The Steelers, though, would have to change their habits for Rainey to become an integral part of the passing game.
“There are multiple things he can do, and it helps that he has great hands,” said Redman, who is more impressed with Rainey's knowledge of the playbook than his speed. “He can definitely stretch the field.”
Redman, though, cautions Rainey not to get too far ahead of himself during training camp.
“It's all about getting young guys to understand this is a long process,” Redman said. “I remember when I came in. If I didn't have guys like (former Steelers running back) Willie Parker to keep me squared away, I don't know where I would be today. I want to take that knowledge and dish it out to him.”
For now, coach Mike Tomlin is interested in keeping Rainey healthy. So, he kept him out of Saturday's blitz-protection drill.
Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7923.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers visit with Arizona State receiver Strong, claim long snapper
- Maligned Nebraska OLB Gregory visits Steelers
- Steelers veteran cornerback Ike Taylor announces retirement
- Steelers host Auburn WR Coates, 2 others
- Steelers host two more pre-draft tight ends
- Steelers notebook: DeCastro contract option picked up
- Rooneys say Polamalu ‘ranks right up there’ with Steelers’ all-time greats