By BOB LABRIOLA
LATROBE, Pa. – Welcome to the varsity, Isaac Redman.
After he scored twice in this camp's first installment of the goal-line drill and then followed that up with two touchdowns on short runs in the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals, Coach Mike Tomlin was asked about whether this undrafted rookie from Bowie State could be what the Steelers are looking for in a short-yardage back.
"It was relative," said Tomlin, quick to temper the media's enthusiasm for a Cinderella-type story. "Hopefully we will get some more looks at him against some varsity guys, if you will. He did a nice job with what he faced (against the Cardinals). We are not going to make too much out of it. We will continue to work and move forward."
There was more work done in that area here on Sunday afternoon in 89-degree temperatures, and Redman did a lot of moving forward. Figuratively and literally.
During the second installment of goal-line at Saint Vincent College, Redman was the tailback for all seven repetitions from the 1-yard line, he got the ball on every play and scored touchdowns on five of them. He lined up with the first-team offense and scored against the first-team defense, and he lined up with the second unit on offense and scored against the second-team defense. He scored on plays between the tackles, and he scored on plays where he bounced it to the outside.
When it was over, Redman had given the offense a 5-2 win in the drill, which evened the series. The defense had won the first installment, 4-3.
"They put me out with the first team to see if I could repeat (what happened the last time), and the offensive line had some great blocks," said Redman. "The fullback had a great block, and I basically walked in on a couple of them."
On the first play, Redman got a nice block from tight end David Johnson, among others; on the next, right guard Trai Essex punched open the hole that Redman used to give the offense a 2-0 lead. On the third play, rookie Frank Summers led Redman around the right end and blasted safety Tyrone Carter out of the way, and it was 3-0.
The defense engulfed Redman on the fourth play, and on the fifth snap the defense again held him out of the end zone. That made it 3-2, but the final two plays ended with easy scores by the offense. On both plays, Redman ran just outside right tackle and was led by Summers, who cleared a defender out of the hole both times.
"Everybody likes being in the end zone, especially a running back, so I just try my hardest and work hard every day," said Redman. "I can't say enough about the o-line's blocking today. It really helped me a lot. Hopefully I can find a spot on this team."
Typically, Tomlin was less enthusiastic about what he had seen than either the media or the fans who packed the stands at Chuck Noll Field.
"You know, he still has a ways to go," said Tomlin. "That's the process. No question he represented himself well today."
When asked why Redman got all seven carries, Tomlin said, "I am somewhat concerned about his level of conditioning. Particularly with young guys, you saw Rashard (Mendenhall) go through it last year in the preseason when they get an extended number of carries sometimes they lose a little ball security and some of the detail in their work. You guys saw what I saw. He got in the end zone a bunch."
When training camp opened, Redman was an after-thought to some degree, just a guy who was signed after the draft so that the team would have enough bodies at running back to get through the drills in practice. But as the Steelers enter their final week here and prepare for their second of four preseason games, Isaac Redman is in the conversation.
"I'm a guy who can fit in wherever they want me to fit – special teams, short yardage, whatever is needed I'm trying to be that guy," said Redman.
While the goal-line drill was the highlight of the afternoon, there were other players who distinguished themselves with big plays during the session.
Lawrence Timmons made a nice play on an interception during the two-minute period; William Gay also had an interception, with his coming on a Ben Roethlisberger pass to rookie Mike Wallace; and Shaun McDonald, who really has been coming on of late in a bid to make the roster at wide receiver, made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone and got both feet down for a touchdown.
"Good, hot day for us here today," said Tomlin. "We got some situational football done, some two-minute, some short-yardage and goal-line. I thought it was a very productive practice. I like the way the guys competed. I like to put them in those situations, because I think that is the ultimate motivator. Guys competing, trying to get better, guys distinguishing themselves, and I like what I see."
INJURY UPDATE: Rookie guard Kraig Urbik did not practice because Tomlin said he had a scratched cornea and the decision was made to protect his eye from the sun for 24 hours … Troy Polamalu (calf) and Travis Kirschke (ankle) didn't complete the session, but neither injury is believed to be serious … Neither Brandon Williams nor Mewelde Moore practiced.