Isaac Redman’s most memorable play in Pittsburgh serves as the perfect metaphor for his career.
- The play itself came in a key AFC North Showdown Sunday, December 5th at Baltimore.
With Pittsburgh down 10-6 and under four minutes remaining, Troy Polamalu strip-sacked Joe Flacco. LaMarr Woodley recovered, returning it to the nine. Pass attempts to Rashard Mendenhall and Hines Ward fell short. In between, Terell Suggs broke Ben Roethlisberger’s nose.
Its 3rd and 9. Isaac Redman shows up in the huddle – he’s not even supposed to be one the field, but it’s too late, he must stay in. Ball is snapped. Redman “Goes out and gets open” here’s what happened (available as of 8/24/14):
Unfortunately, thanks to Roger Goodell’s You Tube Police, we lack a better quality video. But a high-quality video isn’t necessary to capture the essence of Isaac Redman:
- He wasn’t supposed to be there, yet with dogged determination he defied the odds to impose his will.
Isaac Redman, the undrafted rookie free agent who took Steelers Nation by storm in during the Pittsburgh Steelers 2009 training camp, retired from football last week 10 months after his release from the Steelers.
Isaac Redman, from Undrafted Free Agent to Steelers Nation Cult Hero
Even on the Steelers, a franchise crafted on giving undrafted rookie free agents a fair shake, these players face long odds. That’s especially true when they’re trying to make the roster of a defending Super Bowl Champion.
- None of that deterred Isaac Redman.
Maryland’s Bowie State University will never serve as an NFL launching pad, but Redman’s career there earned him the school’s all time rushing title, and that landed him a spot in the Steelers 2009 undrafted rookie free agent class.
In the 21st century NFL training camps have become fairly mundane affairs, with contact minimized to a level that might perhaps make them unrecognizable to their form during Chuck Noll’s heyday. At St. Vincent’s, under Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin, the goal line drill offers a contrast.
- Redman got his shot in the goal line drill and scored twice.
Tomlin saw enough to give him a shot in the team’s first preseason game vs. Arizona, and Redman scored two touchdowns in the 4th quarter. Redman didn’t fare as well in the team’s next two preseason games, but led the team in rushing in the preseason finale vs. Carolina, and scored another touchdown.
- Still, it wasn’t enough to make the team.
Mike Tomlin opted to give roster spots to Frank Summers and Stefan Logan. The Steelers instead signed Redman to the practice squad, where he’d be released and activated several times during the 2009 season.
From Cult Hero to Solid Backup
While Steelers management had taken a “Wait and see” attitude, Steelers Nation fell head over heels for “RedZone Redman.” He might have entered training camp behind 2010’s 6th round draft pick Jonathan Dwyer on the depth chart, but that did nothing to deter fans.
To wit, when Behind the Steel Curtain polled asking fans who should win the training camp quarterback derby between Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon, and Charlie Batch, BTSC jokingly included Redman’s name, and Redman did well.
With a practice squad apprenticeship under his belt, Redman not only beat out Frank “The Tank” summers for a roster spot, but served as Mendenhall’s top backup for the year. If Redman lacked the speed and athleticism of Mendenhall, he was a bruising runner between the tackles who excelled at yards after contact.
- He didn’t start any games in 2010, but saw carries in all 15 save for the mid-season speaking administered by New England.
By early 2011, Redman’s workman like performances had fans calling for him to start ahead of Mendenhall. By season’s end, Mendenhall’s ACL tear vs. the Browns gave fans their wish. Redman closed the game with 92 yards rushing, and gained 121 in the Tebowing suffered by the Steelers in Denver.
2012 Opportunity Slips Away
With Mendenhall recovering from his ACL, and Jonathan Dwyer consistently inconsistent, the stage was set for Redman to seize the starting role.
- Yet, that didn’t happen.
Redman injured in groin in training camp, and neglected to tell the trainers about it. The team hurriedly activated Mendenhall from IR. Redman started the Steelers first three games but was ineffective. An injury vs. Tennessee kept him out for the next two weeks.
- Nonetheless, destiny gave Redman a final moment of glory.
Injuries thrust Redman back into the starting role in week 8 vs. the Giants, where he exploded for 147 yards rushing. He got another start the following week, but was ineffective. He played out the rest of the season, delivering his greatest impact vs. Baltimore.
2013 Redman’s Ride Reaches an Unceremonious End
Rookie Le’Veon Bell’s lisfranc injury and Jonathan Dwyer’s waiver made Redman the Steelers opening day starter in 2013. He promptly fumbled away his first carry and did nothing to redeem himself. A week later he suffered a concussion vs. Cincinnati, and later admitted to lying about it. Bell and Dwyer’s return saw Redman relegated to the bench, then the inactive list.
- In late October, the team cut Redman.
Yet in spite of his on the field accomplishments and former cult-hero status, the news wasn’t the bombshell it should have been. The press wrote very little about his departure. Fans didn’t care.
When yours truly suggested the team grant Redman a second chance in the offseason, fan reaction ranged from indifferent to hostile, and just plain hostile after Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount’s arrest.
- Yet there seemed to be a 2+2 = 3 nature to Redman’s story.
Not only did the Steelers fail to show interest in resigning him, his name simply didn’t surface. Last Friday Redman revealed why on Twitter:
Apparently, during those final eight games, Redman suffered a neck injury that went unreported. We’ll never know if he could have saved his career by admitting to his injury. Either way, Redman’s time came to an unfortunate end.
But, as ESPN’s Scott Brown remembered “Isaac Redman gave the Steelers his all.” Steel Curtain Rising thanks Redman for his service and wishes him the best in retirement.