Red Zone: With Mendenhall Out, Redman Will Carry Ball and Steelers


While the pundits and talking heads groped over talking about Tim Tebow already, we here in Pittsburgh got word that Rashard Mendenhall suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in Sunday’s game against Cleveland.  And while most NFL fans would feel overwhelmed with anxiety that their team has no chance to make through the playoffs because their star running back is about to get knifed on the doc’s table, Steelers fans can take a bit of comfort.

All season long, Rashard Mendenhall has been a bit of a touchy subject for me and most of the writers on NPC.  His happy feet at the line of scrimmage along with his inability (or complete unwillingness, you choose) to push and churn for every foot has festered a heaping pile of animosity towards the guy.  Sprinkle in some pretty stoooopid things said on Twitter during the offseason, and you have a downright awful head slapping concoction that just makes me want to strangle myself with my Terrible Towel.

Don’t be fooled by their average YPC – Mendenhall’s 4.1 to Redman’s 4.4.  Mendenhall’s average is up there because he’s had a few big runs when the offensive line was able to make holes bigger than the Grand Canyon.  Redman’s longest run? 27 yards.  Most of his yards come from hitting a small hole (or no hole) and grinding for every inch he can muster – true Steeler smash mouth football.  The kind that wins championships.  There are those out there that say Redman is not a ‘feature’ back.  Why?  Because he does not have explosive speed?  He ran a 4.7 40 back in the combine two years ago.  Mendenhall had a 4.5 back in his combine day.  They aren’t TOO far off.  Besides, do you think The Bus ran a fast 40?  Hell no, but he had the size to knock guys over and grind for yards.

Redman isn’t quite the future 2012 HOF back like Bettis.  But, the type of game the Steelers play – emphasis on pass – needs a back that can gain positive yards even when there isn’t a hole to work with.  Mendenhall is not that kind of back.  Sure he has a chance to break a big play now and then… but the Steelers offense needs less of a ‘now and then’ running back and have a guy that can lean forward and push a pile.  Redman is that kind of running back.

The Broncos are ranked 22nd in the league defending the run and are allowing 4.1 yards per carry.  Star rookie and Pro Bowl LB Von Miller for the Broncos is struggling because of a cast on his arm.  He actually sat out part way through the game due to his ineffectiveness against the Chiefs this past wee.  That bodes well for the Steelers in both areas of the rushing and passing games.  Mendenhall could fair well against this team, but with our line struggling to make holes, it’s a grind it out kind of playoffs for the Steelers.

The biggest worry from Redman right now is his ability to secure the ball.  He had two lost fumbles on Sunday.  They were his only two fumbles in over 100 carries this season.  He takes care of the football 98% of the time.  Because he tries to extend the play for as long as possible he is at risk of losing the ball, but at a 98% success rate out of 110 carries I think he’ll do just fine for the playoffs.

This is a prime opportunity for Redman to really show his worth.  I’m sure he will share time with Clay on Sunday, but he will certainly get the majority of the carries.  He performed fairly well when he filled in for Mendenhall in the Tennessee game.  Now is the time for Redman to really bust some strong runs and show that he can be the back for this team should ever the ‘wheels fall off’ of Mendenhall.  And let’s face it – it takes 6-12 months for an ACL tear to heal after surgery…. and even up to a full season before a back gets back into true form.  The Steelers can’t wait that long to get their feature running back back on the field.  Looks like Redman will have to be that back for them.

All that said, there just one thing I can say enough as I stated months ago and several times over the course of the season – Dear Baron Batch, get well soon.  Love, Me.

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