Redman living the dream
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One day, you're running left, running right, running up the middle and struggling to find yards against the Elizabeth City State team. The next day, you're catching a pass over the middle, roaring through the secondary, bulling through defenders and breaking the hearts of the great Ray Lewis and his Baltimore Ravens teammates. Can you blame Steelers running back Isaac Redman if he feels as if he's living the dream?
"To go from being undrafted to making the big play in the big game ... "
For a moment, Redman was almost speechless. This was after the Steelers' 13-10 victory Sunday night against the Ravens in Baltimore. It was a win that put them in control of the AFC North Division race at the NFL season's three-quarter pole. It also was a win that probably wouldn't have happened without him.
So what if the Steelers sent in the wrong personnel package on their winning play? Running back Mewelde Moore was supposed to be split to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's left, not Redman. "I thought I was in there to stay in the backfield for blitz pick-up," Redman said. "By the time the coaches realized I was out there, it was too late to change the play or call timeout. I'm just glad they had faith in me to do the job."
Do the job?
Redman did better than that.
He won the game.
Third-and-goal from the Ravens' 9. The Steelers trailed, 10-6, with 2:58 to play. Redman and Roethlisberger read the Ravens' all-out blitz perfectly. Redman broke off his route and slanted across the middle. Roethlisberger found him in stride at the 6. "Isaac did the rest," Roethlisberger said.
Redman must have dragged safety Dawan Landry 5 yards as he ran across the field, eventually shrugging him off like an annoying bug. Linebacker Jarret Johnson had a shot at him as he turned up the field, but Redman spun away from him and plowed into the end zone.
Maybe it wasn't quite as pretty as Redman's 56-yard touchdown run for Bowie State in a 29-28 loss to Elizabeth City State in 2008 -- his only big play of the game, by the way -- but it sure seemed more meaningful.
This was against the despised Ravens, right?
And it was "Football Night in America."
The regular-season stage doesn't get much bigger or brighter.
"All I saw was the end zone," Redman said. "I knew I had to get there. I wasn't going to be denied. You've got to have that heart. You've got to have that in you. I wasn't going to be stopped."
It had been a tough night for Redman. He's the Steelers' short-yardage specialist, and Lewis, Terrell Suggs and the Ravens' stout defense had stuffed him on three occasions, the first time forcing a fumble that, luckily for him, was recovered by Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey. But that's the beautiful thing about Redman. He didn't give up on the game. He never gives up.
That goes back to when Redman signed with the Steelers as a free agent before the '09 season, the longest of long shots. Do you realize the caliber of football that Bowie State plays? It didn't just lose to Elizabeth City State in '08. It lost to Slippery Rock last season. It lost to Seton Hill this season.
Not a Ray Lewis or a Terrell Suggs on those teams, I'm pretty sure.
But Redman's small-college background didn't stop him from immediately making a positive impression on Steelers fans and his coaches and teammates. The fans called him "Red Zone" Redman after he scored touchdowns in goal-line situations at training camp and in the exhibition games. I remember talking to Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians a few weeks later in the lobby at the team's South Side headquarters after Redman made the practice squad. "He doesn't have a clue what he's doing right now, but he'll learn," Arians said. "He's going to be a good one. He's going to help us."
But this soon?
Against the Ravens?
It's an amazing story.
Redman really is living the American dream.
"Hard work pays off," he said. "I know it sounds kind of corny, but I firmly believe that."
Redman is a nice change of pace from the Steelers' featured ball-toter, Rashard Mendenhall, who surpassed 1,000 yards for the season against the Ravens. Redman will look for a hole, but, if one isn't there, he'll make one. He's a beast to bring down. Ask Landry and Johnson. His 4.2 yards-per-carry average is better than Mendenhall's 3.9. Many Red Zone fans are lobbying for him to get more carries; he has just 43 to Mendenhall's 257. He appreciates the support, but he's pretty happy doing what he's doing. It sure beats grinding out the yards against Elizabeth City State.
"I'm just trying to make the best of my opportunities when my number is called," Redman said. "I'm not going to say I deserve the ball more. I'll take what I get."
It's a nice combination, Mendenhall and Redman.
There's one very good reason for that.
Please, allow Mendenhall to explain.
"Ike, he's a ballplayer."
Doesn't really matter where a guy comes from, does it?
All that matters is where he's going.
First Published December 7, 2010 12:00 am