Isaac Redman could do the math.
Nearing final cuts on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers fifth-year running back looked at the crowded depth chart and figured somebody’s feelings were going to get hurt.
“I know that somebody had to go,” Redman said. “After being around here for a while, you understand how it goes, and I knew somebody had to go this year.”
And despite missing the final two games of the preseason while recovering from a neck injury, it wasn’t Redman.
Instead, the Steelers cut Jonathan Dwyer – the team’s leading rusher in 2012 – and handed Redman the starting job for the season opener against Tennessee on Sunday while second-round pick Le’Veon Bell works his way back from a sprained right foot.
“We know what Isaac is capable of,” coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. “He’s answered the bell for us in the past and we expect him to do it in a big way moving forward starting this weekend.”
When healthy, Redman can be a force. He ran for 410 yards and two scores last year and played well in a 26-23 loss to the Titans, catching four passes for 105 yards. Ankle problems, however, kept Redman from establishing himself as the starter. He rumbled for 147 yards a touchdown in a victory over the New York Giants – the high water mark of an 8-8 season – but went right back to the sidelines after getting knicked up again.
Redman slimmed down to 230 pounds over the winter, believing more quickness would also make him more durable. That part remains to be seen. Redman sustained a stinger during training camp and carried the ball two times during the entire preseason.
Though Tomlin insists Redman will be “spelled” by newly acquired Felix Jones and third-down specialist LaRod Stephens-Howling, Redman thinks a steady dose of carries will help him get into a rhythm.
“The games that I’ve been able to stay in the whole entire game, I’ve done very well,” he said. “It’s just, well, I’m not going to make an excuse. But it’s hard to carry the ball twice, maybe two series, then Dwyer go in for two series.”
That won’t be an issue anymore after the Steelers cut the only running back who managed to stay out of the trainer’s room during August. Yet Dwyer’s weight fluctuations and questionable conditioning apparently made him expendable. Tomlin declined to elaborate on the decision to release Dwyer, instead pointing to the drafting of Bell and the additions of Jones and Stephens-Howling.
“We like the guys that we kept and really our focus is on those guys,” he said.
Even if Bell will not be one of “those guys” on Sunday. While Bell is out of a walking boot after injuring the foot in a preseason loss to Washington last month, Tomlin ruled Bell out this weekend and remained vague about any real timetable for the rookie’s return.
“Young guys like him have to practice in order to be able to participate,” Tomlin said. “At the very best, he would be a partial participant this week.”
The same goes for veteran tight end Heath Miller. The two-time Pro Bowler was activated off the Physically Unable to Perform List over the weekend but Tomlin wants to see how Miller’s body responds to the increased workload before making any sort of decision on Miller’s availability.
While Bell and Miller are questionable, rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones appears ready to make his NFL debut. Jones sat out last week’s preseason finale with a bruised chest but the first-round pick will see plenty of time backing up Jason Worilds and LaMarr Woodley.
Tomlin remains concerned about the special teams, a weakness during Pittsburgh’s winless exhibition season. Neither incumbent Drew Butler or three-time Pro Bowler Brian Moorman distinguished themselves and while Butler survived the final cuts, the victory was short lived when the Steelers signed former New England Patriot punter Zoltan Mesko on Monday.
“He is a high-pedigree guy, one that was highly regarded out of Michigan, a fifth-round pick,” Tomlin said. “He’s a long guy, a left-footer. He is no stranger to the elements, having kicked in New England in the professional ranks and at the University of Michigan in college ... All those things were attractive to us.”
Isaac Redman could do the math.
Bengals make low offer to Hawkins
Johnstown’s Andrew Hawkins grew up with the Cincinnati Bengals while following his older brother Artrell Hawkins Jr.’s NFL career.
The younger Hawkins could see himself wearing a Bengals uniform and playing wide receiver in Cincinnati for years to come. But the Bishop McCort High School graduate knows the business side of the NFL sometimes gets in the way of the storybook ending.
Liriano sharp in Pirates victory over Rays
Russell Martin homered for the third time this spring and drove in four runs to lead Francisco Liriano and the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 10-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.
Martin had an RBI single during a six-run first inning against Rays starter Matt Moore and added a three-run homer off Grant Balfour in the fourth.
McCutchen leads Pirates offense in loss to Twins
Andrew McCutchen homered, doubled and singled Friday for the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 6-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
McCutchen went 3 for 3, scored twice and drove in two runs. The reigning NL MVP is 8 for 11 in four games this spring.
Pirates, Jays rained out
The Toronto Blue Jays' spring training game at the Pittsburgh Pirates was rained out Thursday.
The game will not be made up.
Pirates rough up Blue Jays’ Morrow
Brandon Morrow allowed five runs and six hits over three innings in the Toronto Blue Jays’ 6-4 loss Wednesday to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Morrow was making his second appearance since a season-ending forearm injury last May. On Feb. 28, the right-hander gave up two hits and one run in two relief innings.
Steelers sign Polamalu, cut Foote
Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller are doing their part to help the Pittsburgh Steelers get under the 2014 salary cap.
The eight-time Pro Bowl safety and the venerable tight end both signed new three-year contracts with the team on Wednesday designed to give the Steelers some cap relief before the new league year begins next week.
Pens pick up pair of forwards
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t go for the big splash at the trade deadline this time.
General manager Ray Shero believes the little ripples his team made instead can be just as effective as the franchise pursues its fourth Stanley Cup.
Penguins snap out of slump
Matt Niskanen scored his second goal of the game 7:29 into the third period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 on Tuesday night to snap a three-game skid.
Niskanen and the Penguins helped ruin the return of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne in his first game since Oct. 22 following an E. coli infection in his surgically repaired left hip.
Morton throws three scoreless innings in Pirates victory
Charlie Morton allowed one hit in three scoreless innings, helping the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.
Morton did not strike out a batter, but he kept Detroit off the bases during his short stint, aside from Don Kelly’s second-inning double.
Alvarez, Martin hit two-run shots in Bucs’ win
Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin hit two-run homers off Brandon Workman, who started in place of injured Jake Peavy, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Boston Red Sox 7-6 Monday.
Pittsburgh leadoff batter Starling Marte reached on an infield single in the first that stopped an 0-for-9 start, and Alvarez homered to right off Workman with two outs.
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