I believe Isaac Redman's running style is very similar to Fred Taylor's...for a big running back...lateral acceleration, suddenness, a wide base at contact, and a glide off the tackler. He runs side to side very effectively. In fact, his sideways acceleration is off the charts for a big man.
Those traits are extremely unique to very few exceptional NFL running backs. They are extremely rare for big running backs.
Taylor had exactly those traits in his heyday.
Most Steelers running backs over the years never had those traits whatsoever. It's been straight, strong, quick to the hole, and pad level for our running backs. Pollard, Jackson, Hoge, Worley, Bam, Bettis...they all ran it straight ahead and lowered the boom.
It was the Dick Hoak way: Hit the hole hard! You pause and you're dead meat.
The huge, gaping holes that slower running backs like Bettis, Hoge, Pollard, and Jackson were hitting to the Steelers fans' delight aren't there in this new Steelers offense.
And the legendary Dick Hoak retired a few years ago.
I think the Steelers are still learning what is going to work best in this offense. It is a body of work in motion.
Since Larry Zierlein has completely retooled our offensive line into a zone blocking unit, and the trademark straight-ahead style isn't as effective a running style for this offense. Parker's average yards per carry has dropped each of the past four seasons.
He complained publicly last year about the lack of a lead fullback in the hole and how it was having a negative effect on his productivity.
Parker has had to adapt mid-career into a new system.
Parker is most effective off the edge right now because off the edge is the only place left where his straight ahead style is finding space. The offensive linemen aren't pulling as much and the fullback is used sparingly now.
The zone blocking technique was a necessary evil for the Steelers to accommodate the spread passing attack that Bruce Arians and Randy Fichtner have put in place. It is an ever-evolving work in progress, and new pieces are being fit into it each year.
I feel that Barry Sanders would be absolutely thriving in the Steelers current zone blocking scheme. Holes are opening sideways more than straight ahead now. And a running back with lateral acceleration can hit those gaps where a straight-ahead runner would never have a chance.
I think this is why Redman is having a bit of success. His running style seems to work in our zone blocking system.
But it's just a hunch.
None of us have seen enough of Redman in this Steelers offense yet to know his deal. I based my hunch on his tapes from college, where he demonstrated these running traits over and over again on carry after carry.
And his two touchdowns last week flashed exactly those traits.
Again, it's just a hunch. But if my hunch is right, Rashard Mendenhall may simply be running in a system that isn't fitting his style.
That said, maybe we made a mistake taking him? It still needs to come out in the wash.
I may be dead wrong about Redman, too.
I realize this. It's O.K. I can live with myself.
He's an undrafted player, anyway.
The next few weeks are really important, even critical, to see the running game show improvement.