Steelers Notebook: Undrafted rookie rules red zone
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The Steelers have a new folk hero on their hands, an undrafted, mostly unwanted rookie who has become one of the remarkable stories of this training camp.
Isaac "Redzone" Redman, fans are calling him.
Redman, from Bowie State, got yet more chances to deliver on the goal line yesterday and he came through as he has done since he first set foot on the Saint Vincent College campus in Latrobe with the Steelers.
Redman scored all three times against the Steelers' first-team defense on the second live goal-line drill of training camp yesterday. And, in an unprecedented move, coach Mike Tomlin had him carry the ball on each of the seven live plays run from the 1 in that drill. Redman scored on five, came close on a disputed call on another and was stopped one time up the middle by the second-team defense.
He first attracted attention when he scored on his only two chances in that drill a week ago. Then on Thursday, against the Arizona Cardinals, he scored the Steelers' only two touchdowns, from 3 and 5 yards in a 20-10 victory.
"It gives me a bit of a confidence booster," Redman said of his first three scores yesterday. "They told me I was going to get in with the first team to see if I could repeat the same thing. The offensive line had some great blocks. The fullback had a great block and I basically walked in on a couple of them."
Redman said the Steelers were the only team that really wanted to sign him after he went undrafted in April. If he makes it, he would become the first player from Bowie State to play in the NFL.
The Steelers have been looking for a short-yardage back, unsuccessfully, since Jerome Bettis retired after the 2005 season. They drafted Frank "The Tank" Summers (5 feet 10, 240 pounds) to possibly handle that role. Redman (6-0, 230) is giving him a run for it.
"You guys saw what I saw, he got in the end zone a bunch," Tomlin said.
Tomlin scheduled Redman for only two carries in the goal-line drill, but kept using him. Normally two or even three different backs get cracks at it in that drill. Tomlin said he wanted to see what kind of shape Redman was in, and if he could take care of the ball if he did get fatigued.
He passed on both counts.
"He's still got a ways to go," Tomlin said. "That's the process. No question he represented himself pretty well."
Darnell Stapleton expects to be ready to play for the Steelers before the end of the preseason. Where that will be remains unanswered.
Stapleton, the Steelers' starting right guard last season, said his right knee will be evaluated by doctors on Wednesday or Thursday, about two weeks since loose cartilage was removed through arthroscopic surgery.
"Hopefully in a week or so I'll be back out there," Stapleton said yesterday. "There's no doubt in my mind I'll be back to play this season."
Stapleton has not practiced since Aug. 2, the second day of training camp. He had been handling the center's duties with the first team because Justin Hartwig reported to camp with a broken right big toe.
Hartwig returned to practice full time Saturday and Trai Essex has been the right guard since the start of camp. When Stapleton returns, he could find himself as the backup center and guard or competing again for his old job with Essex.
"It's frustrating, we had a great season last year and you want to come in and be with your guys and be in camp and build as a unit," Stapleton said. "But stuff happens sometimes."
This time, it was not as bad as some thought it might be. An MRI did not show a problem and some feared the worst before what Tomlin described as "exploratory" surgery.
"Yeah, I heard it could have been a little worse procedure," Stapleton said. "I'm glad it was just a scope, which I had my rookie year and I was back in three, four weeks. I'm keeping that time frame in mind."
Stapleton had similar surgery in 2007 on his left knee.
Not much news on the rest of the injury front. Rookie guard Kraig Urbik has a scratched eye and was held out of practice. Defensive end Travis Kirschke came down with a right ankle injury. Safety Troy Polamalu quit practice early with a tight hamstring.
A healthy number of former Steelers, including Hall of Famers Franco Harris and Mel Blount, will take part in a Pittsburgh Field Club golf event Sept. 11 that benefits Golf Supports Our Troops, a charity that provides golf therapy equipment to wounded veterans. Spots are still available for golfers. To register, call 1-866-441-4100 or visit golfsupportsourtroops.org.
Among other former Steelers are Rocky Bleier, Robin Cole, Jeff Hartings, Dick Hoak, Louis Lipps, Mike Wagner.
First Published August 17, 2009 12:00 am