EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A football team has a controversy when it has three guys at one position who can't play well enough to help it win. What the Steelers have at running back is a luxury. "A blessing," tackle Max Starks called it Sunday night. "We have three guys who could start for just about any other team in the NFL. All three are dynamic guys."
And, Sunday, Isaac Redman.
"I don't look at it like we have a starter and backups," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "All of those guys are starters to me. It's our three-headed monster. I love it."
Roethlisberger, Starks and the other Steelers felt pretty good about themselves after their 24-20 win against the New York Football Giants at MetLife Stadium. It was their third win in a row and left them with a 5-3 record at the season's midpoint. It came against the defending Super Bowl champions. It happened after the team spent the early part of the day getting to New Jersey from Pittsburgh.
"Traveling high school style," Starks said, grinning.
And it came in emotionally charged MetLife Stadium, not far from much of the catastrophic damage caused last week by Hurricane Sandy.
"To come into their house and overcome all that to get this win, it's huge," Starks said.
"A win like this makes you tougher as a football team," guard Willie Colon said.
It wouldn't have happened without Redman, who ran for 147 yards and the winning touchdown. His 26 carries helped the Steelers to another big edge in possession time, 35:15 to 24:45.
"We were down at running back. It was my turn to step up," Redman said, shrugging.
Mendenhall missed his third consecutive game with an Achilles injury. Dwyer sat out with a quadriceps problem after rushing for more than 100 yards in each of the previous two games. Redman got the start after missing the two previous games with an ankle injury.
"Without all three of us, who knows where this team would be?" Redman asked. "All three of us have contributed."
Just as in the wins against the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins, the offensive line deserves tremendous credit. "I like the personality that's developing within that group," coach Mike Tomlin said, an observation that was seconded by Colon.
"We're starting to get it," Colon said. "There's not much that's needed to be said out there at crunch time. We're all comfortable with each other. We know what we have to do. The camaraderie is great right now."
Roethlisberger was sacked four times, one of which turned into a fumble and a 70-yard return for a touchdown by Giants linebacker Michael Boley. But when the Steelers needed to convert a third-and-9 from their 29 with 2:40 left, the line gave Roethlisberger great protection and he found wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a 16-yard gain. The line also helped Redman clinch the win on the next play with a 28-yard gain.
"It doesn't matter to those guys who's getting the ball," Roethlisberger said. "They just block their behinds off."
Redman ran exceptionally hard. Most of his yards came after he was hit. His best run might have come midway through the fourth quarter when he started off right tackle and spun twice to end up on the left side of the line, turning a 2-yard loss into a 4-yard gain.
"Next man up," Tomlin said of Redman's performance.
That Redman excelled should not have been surprising. He has played well in big games. He ran for 121 yards in a playoff loss in January to the Denver Broncos. He scored the winning 9-yard touchdown after a terrific catch-and-run to beat the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore in 2010, a win that helped the Steelers win the AFC North Division and advance to Super Bowl XLV.
This might have been Redman's best game.
It has been a tough season for Redman physically. He had a hip problem, a neck stinger and a sprained ankle in the exhibition season. He had a big receiving game in the loss Oct. 11 at Tennessee with four catches for 105 yards but sprained his other ankle that same night.
Redman said he wasn't 100 percent Sunday.
You probably could have fooled the Giants.
Ron Cook: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. First Published November 5, 2012 5:00 AM