Redman’s survivor skills

By Mike Bires
Updated: August 16, 2009

PITTSBURGH — After a steamy day at practice, Isaac Redman walked off the field lugging two sets of shoulder pads. One was his. The other belonged to Willie Parker.

Such is life as a training camp rookie.

“Gotta pay your dues,” he said, sweat dripping off his face.

Redman paid his dues again Saturday even though he scored the Pittsburgh Steelers’ only two touchdowns in Thursday’s 20-10 preseason win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Not that he’s complaining.

He’s delighted to be here. Not many products from Bowie State University get the chance to participate in an NFL camp. A small, predominantly African-American institution located in Maryland between Washington, D.C. and Annapolis, Bowie has never sent one its own into the NFL.

Despite long odds, Redman could be the first.

He’s had an excellent camp so far. An undrafted rookie, he’s certainly out-shined Frank “The Tank” Summers, a running back who was taken in the fifth round of this year’s draft.

Redman has continually gained notoriety since camp started just over two weeks ago.

One day early in camp, he was the star of an intense, physical drill called “backs on ‘backers.” He was outstanding as he blocked on-rushing linebackers.

“Way to go 33!” coach Mike Tomlin yelled repeatedly at the time.

Last week, in a highly anticipated goal-line drill, Redman impressed again with two touchdowns.

Then he scored two TDs in the first preseason game.

“It was the greatest feeling I’ve ever had,” he said of his 3- and 5-yard scores against Arizona.

Tomlin, though, isn’t quite ready to jump on Redman’s bandwagon … at least publicly.

“It was relative,” Tomlin said. “Hopefully, we will get some more looks at him against some varsity guys.”

Redman’s two TDs against Arizona came in the fourth quarter against third- and fourth stringers. Today, though, he gets his chance against the varsity.

Tomlin told him that he’ll get a few carries with the first-team offense in this afternoon’s goal-line scrimmage. If Redman holds his own today, his chances of making the roster improve.

After all, the Steelers are a team known to find, develop and keep undrafted rookies. Two of their current running backs — Willie Parker and Carey Davis — made the team after they weren’t drafted.

The last Steeler to wear jersey No. 33, Gary Russell, was also an undrafted free agent. It was Russell who scored the Steelers’ first TD in their Super Bowl XLIII win.

Russell was cut during the off-season, but some fans think he’s still a Steeler.

As Redman walked off Heinz Field Thursday evening, several fans thought he was Russell.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Redman said. “I just scored two touchdowns, and I’m still getting called Gary Russell.”

Redman, a 215-pound state wrestling champ when he attended high school in New Jersey, won’t be confused with Russell if he keeps progressing. He’s making a name for himself.

It’s too early to say he’ll make the team. But just maybe, in a few weeks, he won’t have to carry Parker’s shoulder pads.

If he survives the final cut, he won’t carry anybody’s pads but his own.