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When Isaac Redman first arrived in Pittsburgh in 2009 he was a little known back from Bowie State, a rookie free agent with nothing more than an outside shot of making the team.
But as things heated up during training camp at St. Vincent College, Redman caught fire. During a goal line drill where pride is on the line, Redman earned the nickname "Red Zone" after scoring touchdowns against a defense that normally dominates.
"I didn't even know who he really was," laughed nose tackle Casey Hampton, who said while he knew Redman was a new teammate he knew nothing about his college background or anything.
While he opened plenty of eyes during camp, it wasn't quite enough. He was released when the final roster was set, and bounced off and on the practice squad throughout the season because of need at other positions due to injuries.
"The only thing I kept saying when I first got here was, 'As long as they don't cut me before I put the shoulder pads on I should be fine,'" said Redman. "I was uncomfortable on the practice squad, I had never been cut from anything and I just didn't feel right being on the practice squad. I felt like I could help this team win."
When the year ended, he was signed to the offseason roster but still had to prove himself. He did just that, making the final roster in 2010 and since then being a steady and dependable back-up.
This week it will be Redman who will carry the load for the Steelers ground game, getting the start at running back against the Broncos with Rashard Mendenhall now on injured reserve. He is ready for the challenge, willing to carry the ball as much as they want him to.
"What better opportunity than to get the starting role in the playoffs," said Redman. "It's unfortunate how it came about. We're down and hurt right now and I am going to try to be the guy to provide that spark for us. I've always approached each week like I was a starter. I studied hard, practiced hard, worked hard in the weight room so when a time like this comes up nothing really has to change.
"Someone told me you're the starting running back on one of the most popular teams heading into the playoffs. I'm ready. I'm embracing the moment. It's times like this you have to just let everybody know what you're about. I can handle as many (carries) as they give to me. I've prepared all year long. I've prepared all offseason for any time where I need to step up. It's ready to pay off now in the playoffs."
Redman's hard work has actually already paid off. Last week when Mendenhall went down he stepped in and had 92 yards rushing against the Browns.
"On the goal line he is a beast," said Hampton. "He is a good back. I don't expect anything but greatness from him. I am not worried about him at all."
There is nothing the third year back wants to hear more than that vote of confidence from his teammates, people he doesn't plan on letting down.
"It feels great to know my teammates aren't down because we don't have Rashard," said Redman. "They told me they know I am capable of getting the job done. That gives me more confidence. A lot of offensive linemen tell me they get excited when I come in the game because they love my style of running."
That style of running is pounding the ball forward, never stopping and pushing it to the limit.
"I kind of move the pile straight downhill," said Redman. "(Rashard) is a great runner, he understands the defense, how to hit the hole. I bring something different with power. He has the speed and goes around the edge. I am more of a downhill runner. I like to run and hit it downhill and try to put a little wear and tear on the defense by the end of the game."
Some have even drawn comparisons to former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, who was bigger but had a similar style. The most recent comparison came during Sunday's broadcast of the Steelers-Browns game on CBS.
"Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as him is a great honor," said Redman. "He is a legend in this league. He was a great running back. The more they mention my name with him, the better it can get."