Steelers rush to fix problem fix goal-line offense
Steelers running back Isaac Redman breaks through the defense and scores during goal-line drills Sunday at training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.
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Linebacker Larry Foote missed the Steelers' two traditional live goal-line drills a year ago, missed the defense getting gouged for touchdown after touchdown.
"I heard about it," Foote said firmly.
Isaac Redman, an undrafted rookie, scored five times on seven consecutive carries a year ago.
"I heard about it," Foote said again.
Did it still bother his defensive mates?
"It bothers me," Foote said, "and I wasn't even here."
Foote was there Sunday afternoon when coach Mike Tomlin concluded the day's practice with a seven-play live goal-line drill and once again Redman scored. This time, however, he made it in only once and was stopped on his other carry.
• Preseason Game 1: Detroit Lions vs. Steelers, 7:30 p.m.
• Where: Heinz Field.
• TV: KDKA.
The offense, though, scored four times with the ball spotted at the 1 1/2 and three times was stopped short. That's a statistic the offense gladly would have taken last season when it followed its success in training camp by dropping the ball in the regular season. Even the defense knows that.
"I know they weren't as pleased with their performance at the goal line last year and in short yardage, we struggled a little bit in that area," linebacker James Farrior said. "But I've seen some positive signs out here that we're getting better. They've been working on it and I think they're going to do well this year."
Farrior said he saw those signs in the seven live plays Sunday.
"I saw a lot of toughness, I saw a lot of tenacity, I saw guys getting that extra push and it's going to help in the long run."
Earlier in practice, at midfield, Tomlin ran the offense through four short-yardage plays. Redman picked up first downs on each of his first two tries, the first running from the fullback position. Dennis Dixon rolled out and hit Mewelde Moore with a pass for another first down and, finally, the defense stood up rookie Jonathan Dwyer short of the sticks on the fourth play.
It was significant that Tomlin sent Redman out to get the first two carries with the first team in each drill.
"It goes to show what I did last year still stuck in their minds and I guess he really wanted to see what I could do with the first team this year," said Redman, who has had a good first week of camp after spending most of his rookie season on the practice squad.
"He has a great center of gravity, great leg drive," Tomlin said. "I think he's potentially better this year because of his patience and vision. He's done a nice job not only in that drill, but in camp thus far of putting the ball where it's supposed to be and that highlighted his effort today."
Redman, Dwyer, Justin Vincent and newcomer Dwayne Wright each scored once in the goal-line drill. Redman was stopped once and Dwyer twice. Rashard Mendenhall was not used, although Tomlin maintains his starting halfback remains in the mix for the short-yardage job.
"When you struggle on short yardage or goal line, that could be the difference between winning and losing some of the games we lost last year," Redman said. "We're definitely working real hard on the short yardage this year. We don't want to be throwing the ball on third-and-1."
The Steelers were tied for 22nd in scoring touchdowns once they reached their opponent 20-yard line (48.214 percent) last season. Not producing in the red zone may be as telling as anything to a team's record. Of the 11 worst teams in terms of red-zone touchdowns, none made the playoffs last season and only the Steelers had a winning record at 9-7.
The bottom eight teams in red-zone scoring percentage had a combined record of 35-93.
"It's something we really struggled with last year, our goal-line run offense, just trying to get it in from the 3-, 4-yard line," Hines Ward said. "We're just trying to be a great situational football team. Be good on third down, be good on goal line, short yardage and also when we're up by two points with four minutes left we need to grind the clock all the way out so [opponents] don't get the ball back."
First Published August 9, 2010 12:00 am