Thursday, September 5, 2013

Running Backs And Linebackers: Redman, Worilds And The Jones' Boys

Despite being limited to just two carries in the preseason, Isaac Redman will start at running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers opening day at Heinz Field against the Tennessee Titans. The fifth-year back is determined to go out and perform. Though his numbers last season were down, as the quote above insinuates, he believes he has what it takes to represent the Steelers' ground game.

"I just want to prove that I am a starting running back in this league", Redman said per the Steelers Twitter (@steelers) account, "and show that I worked hard all summer."

We have definitely seen flashes of what Redman can do. Just ask the New York Giants about the bullies being bullied as Redman ran roughshod over them for 147 yards on 26 carries. That performance was the top running game by a Steelers' back last season and included both a Mark Bavaro-like 28-yard run in which he carried several Giants like a scorpion carries its young on its back, as well as the game-winning touchdown.

Some, though, question whether Redman can stand the rigor of carrying the rock 25 times for an extended stretch. He has been nicked up more often than you want from a feature back. Then there is the fact that he is prone to putting the ball on the ground, doing so seven times in his four years.

So, will Redman carry the entire load?

“Obviously, we're going to spell Isaac,” head coach Mike Tomlin said at his press conference on Tuesday. “We haven't detailed the rotation or the nature of the rotation at this point....We're continuing to get to know Felix." - http://tinyurl.com/lsyq6t9

"Felix" would be Felix Jones who was gotten in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles on August 23 for linebacker Adrian Robinson (who was cut and then picked up by the Denver Broncos). Jones quickly showed he has abilities too as he ran well in his two preseason games, including running 14 times for 56 yards vs. the Carolina Panthers.

Will we see a bit of a "thunder and lighting" approach? Jones' speed and cutting ability would complement Redman's pounding, and would work well when the zone-blocking scheme is utilized. Regardless, at this point there is safety in numbers. Not another running back-by-committee fiasco mind you, but safety by means of depth.

Speaking of depth, the linebacker position has also long been a Steelers staple. With the likes of Lawrence Timmons, Jarvis Jones and a rededicated LaMarr Woodley, the tradition looks as if it will live on. The wild card in this, though, is Jason Worilds.

Especially against Chris Johnson and the Titans, Worilds' ability to hold the edge will be imperative. He will be needed to handle the tackles and tight ends and to contain Johnson and turn him back on stretch plays. If Worilds is able to consistently control the edge on the run plays as well as rush the passer to help wreak havoc, that will help tremendously the chances of winning.

As for one of the other Jones boys, Tomlin had a big smile on his face when emphatically said, “(Jarvis) Jones is going to play."

Jones has been a turnover machine in his short time with the Steelers. His presence creates unique dilemmas that the Steelers will want to exploit. So, while Worilds and Woodley are your starters, Jones will see his share of playing time. 

As If It Ain't Steel said many times, Jones will neither start week one nor early in the season, but his learning curve won't keep him out long. Not when he has to add his name to the Steelers linebacker pantheon. 


TIDBITS: The Steelers practice report for Wednesday: Le'Veon Bell did not practice; Heath Miller, Jarvis Jones, Will Johnson were all limited.

~

Tight end Heath Miller is off the PUP list, but has been doing only light drills. His return is uncertain, but he is "inching" toward his return. 

"My mindset's not going to change," Miller said. "I just want to keep improving each day and keep stacking those good days together. I still want to think short term, so that's day by day, and keep getting better. That's brought me to this point, and that will take me to a good point soon." - http://tinyurl.com/ly6sxn9

~

Steelers signed Isaiah Green to the practice squad after he cleared waivers and then released Devin Smith.

~

Fullback Will Johnson is nursing a pulled hamstring, and coach Tomlin said the team won't know until later this week if Johnson will be able to play Sunday against the Titans.

Johnson got hurt in the preseason finale against the Panthers and has only been a partial participant in practice on Monday and Tuesday, and is likely to be limited again on Wednesday.

~

“@JohnnyBrovo11: Could never replace the greatness of Casey Hampton. I simply hope to do him proud. #98” 

Those were rookie linebacker Vince Williams' words when given Casey Hampton's old number. Mad respect shown to a Steeler great. For a touchingly poignant discussion on the subject, check out Behind The Steel Curtain's article: http://tinyurl.com/lyyalnb