What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you see “battering ram” in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Steelers? Jerome Bettis of course, but also the modern day version of The Bus, potentially speaking, in Isaac Redman too. Something interesting to file away in your Steeler brain as the offseason continues; how much does Isaac Redman’s style remind you of the great Jerome Bettis and for that matter how would Bettis’ style have fit with a modern passing offense that Redman is in? How exactly would a battering ram work, long term, in an offense full of enough fire power to score at will if run effectively?
I had a few different thoughts going into this article so let’s just see where it takes us shall we? I was sifting through Jerome Bettis’ website earlier today and of course whenever you think of the Bus you immediately get a picture of him running over running over the Bears Brian Urlacher in the snow at Heinz Field. You remember him busting through in overtime against the Cardinals to secure the win, or any one of countless Bus moments that are forever ingrained in our minds as “Steeler Football”.
What made Jerome so great, besides his talent & will to win, was that the Steelers had an offense that featured him as the driving force. There was no Mike Wallace or Antonio Brown. No 4,000 yd passing seasons by a QB or anything like the Steelers have now. Could Bettis have been as successful had he been in a Steeler offense with so many passing weapons? Perhaps we’ll get a glimpse with Isaac Redman this year.
No, I’m not saying Redman is the next Jerome Bettis or even that he should be compared to him at any point in his career just yet. There are similarities to their running style though. Both have the power to run over or through you but neither had/has great speed. Both have nimble feet for what you would consider a power back, able to spin out of a tackle or make you miss completely while gaining extra yardage. You can also say, even if Redman is still young in his career, that he demonstrates the ability to avoid the big hit like Bettis did throughout his career. That can go a long way to an extended career in the NFL. The life span of an NFL running back isn’t exactly something you can count on for 15-20 years anymore. Once you hit 30 you start to see the twilight of your professional sports life come into view. Teams just don’t give out big contracts to 30 something ball carriers anymore, much less even keep them on the team as a backup. Just ask the Giants’ Brandon Jacobs.
So what of Redman and his running style in Todd Haley’s offense. The former Chiefs head coach has shown throughout his career that he can adapt his offense to the personnel he has at his disposal. That means that while Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Jerricho Cotchery, and Emmanuel Sanders will get their share of passes I’m sure, Redman is still going to be a factor. In fact, IRed himself said recently at mini camp that he expects there to be a lot of opportunity to run. “Kind of emphasizing getting the ball the running backs more, we’ll see how it goes”.
Perhaps that means more passes out of the backfield; something Redman is very adept at. Perhaps it means simply more ball control and play action, the latter needing the former to be effective. If Bettis were in this type of offense now how would he be used? I’m going to say very similarly to how Redman is going to be used. You can certainly utilize the power attack and compliment it with an aerial assault, and vice versa.
The differences between the Bettis offense was that Bill Cowher tailored his offensive barrage utlizing the Bus as the main cog in his machine. “Three yards and a cloud of dust” wasn’t just a nice saying, it was reality. Pittsburgh was a ball control offense, don’t make the big mistake, keep the game close, have the QB manage the game and play great defense kind of team. Bettis averaged just over 1,050 yds per year in his career, certainly a number easily attainable by Redman if he ultimately wins the starting job and retains it.
Mike Tomlin isn’t going to focus his offense on any one player, other than maybe Ben Roethlisberger. Cowher didn’t have that luxury but Coach T certainly does. The 2012 Steelers have the capability to be a high flying offense, certainly a return to that old style offense isn’t going to occur but that doesn’t diminish the role that Redman will play. His running style has already proven to be effective even with so much offensive firepower waiting to be unleashed. No matter how much you throw you are inevitably going to be put into a 3rd and short situation or a goal to go at the 3 with the game on the line. You have to be able to run effectively no matter what offense you are technically considered. The Steelers know this and I think that’s a big reason why both Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer can have a big year.