The Pittsburgh Steelers saw rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones fully participate in practice Thursday, meaning he will likely be a go on Sunday. However, both tight end Heath Miller and fullback Will Johnson were limited, bringing their status into question. Of those two, Johnson will be a loss to the new look running game that will start by featuring Isaac Redman.
Yes, Redman is a great story. The blue-collar back runs with a physical edge and has surprising hands out of the backfield. He is a beast on short-yardage and has been a fan favorite since his first carries as an undrafted rookie out of Bowie State. Unfortunately, questions remain on whether he can be a 20-plus carry feature back in the league. That was the exact question that led the Steelers to draft Le’Veon Bell in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
With Bell on the sideline battling a foot injury, Redman and recently acquired running back Felix Jones will have to carry the load, at least on first and second down, for the Steelers offense to click. This is where some concerns may arise with both fans and possibly even the coaching staff.
As the offense transitions to an outside zone-blocking scheme, familiarization with the cutback lanes, and understanding where the holes will develop is something that can only develop on the field in real time, and will be difficult to simulate in practice. Sure, Redman was able to practice, but the lack of reps in the preseason games may be evident early on against the Titans. It could also potentially open the door for Jones to steal away some carries.
Even though Jones was a late addition, showing up in Pittsburgh hours before the third preseason game after the Steelers traded for him. Looking back, that trade between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Steelers (Jones for reserve linebacker Adrian Robinson) may be a move that could pay dividends throughout 2013. Even with limited reps in camp, Jones appeared to be a natural fit in the new blocking scheme and clearly was the best back on the field for the Steelers in the preseason finale, less than a week after the trade.
As the kick-off nears, it is clear that for the first time in the past few seasons, the Steelers potentially have a diverse backfield, with four running backs with different skill sets. With Bell out in Week 1, it is likely that the three remaining running backs, Redman, Jones and third-down back LaRod Stephens-Howling will all see a lot of action.
In a perfect world, Redman, Jones, or when healthy, Bell will seize the featured back role, and allow offensive coordinator Todd Haley to build a game plan without worrying about a committee approach. In 2012, Haley mentioned on more than one occasion his dislike of the running back by committee approach. At this point, fans hope that Redman and Jones will at least prove to be a great compliment to each other, and allow their diverging skills create a nightmare for the Titans defense.
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- Pittsburgh Steelers Acquire Running Back Felix Jones from Philadelphia Eagles
- Le’Veon Bell and Isaac Redman Leave Practice Early Due to Injury
- Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman Battling for More than Playing Time, Could Be Battling for a Contract Extension
- Pittsburgh Steelers OLB Jarvis Jones Hospitalized After Chest Injury
- Steelers Sign Three More Draft Picks Including First-Round Selection Jarvis Jones
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