Redman not settling this time around
If another stellar training camp serves as a springboard to making the Steelers' 53-man roster, running back Isaac Redman will be able to reflect on how far he has come.
Last year, Redman arrived at St. Vincent College in less than stellar football shape. He barely completed the conditioning test that precedes the start of training camp and labored so mightily during a series of 100-yard runs that Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson called it "comical."
It very easily could have been no laughing matter for Redman.
"I looked out of shape," said Redman, whose problems were compounded by the fact that he has asthma. "I'm a rookie, undrafted. They could have sent me right home."
Redman has overcome that humbling start to his Steelers' career and is bidding to fill the critical and, as yet, unclaimed role of short-yardage back.
The 6-foot, 230-pounder has the power, vision and balance that is required to grind out the tough yards when they are needed most.
Perhaps just as significant for the Steelers is the surge in confidence Redman experienced after spending a season on the practice squad and training with the team this offseason.
"I know the offense now and I actually feel like a pro," said Redman, who has also been working at fullback. "I'm not settling for practice squad this year. I definitely can be that (short-yardage) guy."
How Redman performs in the preseason games starting Saturday against Detroit will go a long way toward his convincing the Steelers' coaches the same thing.
Redman had mixed results in the Steelers' first live action of training camp Sunday.
Taking the two carries against the first-team defense during the goal-line drill, Redman scored once but was stuffed short of the end zone on his second attempt.
"I wasn't really impressed," inside linebacker Larry Foote said. "Hopefully we see it better Saturday."
Redman shined during preseason games last year and almost became the longest of long shots to make the team.
He probably never would have gotten a chance with the Steelers if not for the close relationship between his uncle, Todd McNair, and Arians.
McNair played for Arians at Temple and later when the two were with the Kansas City Chiefs.
After his senior season at Bowie State, Redman went to Southern Cal to work out as McNair was the Trojans' running backs coach at the time.
They put together a highlight tape and McNair asked Arians to look at it.
When Arians made the same request of Wilson the latter agreed out of courtesy as much as anything.
Wilson said he liked what he saw on the tape. He was not nearly as impressed when Redman, who signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2009, reported to camp.
"It was really bad, one of the all-time worst of a guy not being in football shape but he hung in there," Wilson said. "It happens every year, all across the National Football League, guys don't understand there's in shape and there's football in shape. It's totally different."
So is Redman after that initial shock to his system.
"He's really stood out this year," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "His blocking ability, pass protection you always see him on the tape, coach Tomlin highlights that."
Arians said Redman is the Steelers' best running back in pass protection.
Over the next couple of weeks he will get the chance to show that he can do more than just stand up blitzing linebackers.
"He's got enough strength and size to play fullback and also be a short-yardage, goal-line runner. He's got great hands so the sky's the limit for the kid," Arians said. "When his opportunity comes, what do you do with it• No one ever thought (former Steelers standout) Barry Foster would be Barry Foster until he got the ball."
Here are five things to know about Steelers running back Isaac Redman:
» Spent a game on the Steelers' 53-man roster last season as a rookie
» Rushed for a team-high three touchdowns during the 2009 preseason
» Is the all-time rushing leader (3,300 yards) at Bowie State University, a Division II school in Maryland
» Said he was recruited by Pitt, Penn State, Iowa, Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple but went to a Division II school because of grades
» Won a state championship in wrestling (215 pounds) as a senior at Paulsboro (N.J.) High School and also was a first-team all-state selection in football that year
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