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Isaac Redman & Jonathan Dwyer interchangeable in Haley’s offense for the Steelers

Mike Tomlin isn’t one who will let the cat out of the bag any sooner than he has too. If there is the slightest doubt about who should play or any reason to think that keeping a decision secret till the last minute will give his team an advantage, he’ll keep everyone in suspense. That’s precisely the plan heading into the season opener in Denver this Sunday night it would appear.

The Steelers Running Back situation has been somewhat of a mystery, in that while everyone assumes that Isaac Redman will start and Jonathan Dwyer will play the Redman role from last season, we don’t know for sure yet. The coaching staff is keeping their plan under wraps, even from the players. Perhaps that’s due to several guys like Isaac Redman talking a bit too much about injuries and playing status during training camp.

There’s a general mindset with this team, with so many new faces and opportunities for playing time, that they may be trying to feel things out a bit early on before they really settle in on a regular rotation. Then again, Running Back by committee is not necessarily a bad thing when you have many talented runners on your team. Todd Haley would appear to prefer that approach overall in his offense.

“As of right now, we’ve been switching out every play [in practice],” said running back Isaac Redman. “It looks like they might want to use us as a group instead of one guy.”

Redman would appear to be the top back after stepping in for injured Mendenhall last season and rushing for 121 yards in the playoff loss in Denver. And, when the Steelers return to Sports Authority Field and open the regular season against Peyton Manning and the Broncos Sunday night, Redman likely will be the starting running back.

But Redman said nobody has told him he is the starter. What’s more, it is possible Jonathan Dwyer, who led all rushers in the preseason and has been the team’s most-improved player, could start against the Broncos. But nobody has told him, either.

“We have a plan and we’re excited about the group,” Haley said. “When Rashard gets back, whenever that happens, whether it’s this week or next week, we got a nice variable at the back. We got some big guys who can move piles, we got some quick guys and we got some in-between guys.”
That plan he’s talking about has been communicated to the players I’m sure to some degree, but we could see different players starting each week depending on how the game plan changes for each opponent. That’s another thing to like about Haley, he’s a gameplanner and takes full use of the weapons he has available to him.
If you look at the depth chart, Rashard Mendenhall is still listed as the starter, followed by Redman, Dwyer, Batch, and Rainey.
Redman and Dwyer are basically interchangeable parts, and not just because they are of similar build (Redman 6′ 230 lbs, Dwyer 5’11 235 lbs). Each is considered a power back but both have good hands to be out in short pass patterns, as well as possessing that nimbleness, agility, and balance that really brings their game to a new level. Redman may have the experience factor on his side more than Dwyer but when you watch them both run you can see how a 1-2 punch of this combo could be just what the Steeler ground attack has been looking for.
Then you toss in Chris Rainey, who can be in a new zip code in the blink of an eye, along with Baron Batch who could be the next Mewelde Moore if he stays healthy and the backfield really can be as versatile as it looks.
We won’t know what Todd Haley’s ground attack is truly going to look like until gametime this Sunday night and moving forward throughout the year. One thing is clear though, the days of a single back attack are long gone in Pittsburgh.  When you have a stable of ball carriers with this much potential, and we should always stress potential, the sky is the limit…or ground as the case may be.
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