Shades of 2008 have reared their head again. RB injuries have begun to set in with the Steelers. The oft-injured Willie Parker has turf toe and is expected not to play against the Chargers. As a result, the Steelers have promoted Isaac Redman to the active roster and released DE Nick Eason. Eason had not dressed for a game this season.
Last season was one of the most challenging seasons at RB for the Steelers in memory. The team finished 23rd in the league in rushing. Parker only started 11 games due to injuries.
Rashard Mendenhall missed the last 12.5 games of the season. In four games, the Steelers were forced to start Mewelde Moore (the team's third down RB) due to being so thin at the RB position. Najeh Davenport, who'd been released prior to the 2008 season, was resigned on an emergency basis and played in four games for the Steelers.
In contrast, 2009 has presented its own challenges at RB.
The team is currently ranked 27th in the league with 243 rushing yards after three games and a mere 3.3 yards per carry. Parker has looked slower and is now, like so often in the past, injured.
Mendenhall, despite a single nice run this season, is inching ever closer to the infamous "BUST" label after having been drafted in the first round by the Steelers in 2008. Mendenhall has rushed for 103 yards...in his career. Last week against Cincinnati, he suffered a benching at the hands of Tomlin for allegedly not passing a test required to play in games.
Mewelde Moore, who ran with such surprising grit last season, has eight rushes for 27 yards.
Frank Summers, drafted to be the team's short yardage back and combination HB/FB, has been put on the IR with a mysterious back injury.
Enter Isaac Redman.
An undrafted free agent from Bowie State that a large portion of Steelers Nation has been crying to see in a hat on Sundays.
During the preseason, Isaac Redman led the Steelers in rushing. He also led the Steelers in attempts. He showed a tremendous nose for the end zone, something we've not seen from our starters for some time. He was able to shed tacklers, beat off first and second contact, and stay upright. His grit and determination energized the fan base.
Unfortunately, Stefan Logan took the fifth RB roster spot, leaving no room for Redman on the roster.
Working against Redman were and are three critical things. Redman has not developed NFL-quality blocking skills or the ability to play on special teams. He's also slow, having been clocked at 4.76 in the 40. Summers ran a 4.63, and Heath Miller a 4.79.
Speed is not what the team needs, however, at this point. If Mendenhall and Moore can carry the load, we just may see Redman get a touch or two in short yardage situations, where hopefully that power and determination will shine through.
And if so, perhaps, just perhaps, Redman will become this year's Gary Russell.