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Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Pressure point: Steelers

By Jamison Hensley

NFC pressure points: West | North | South | East
AFC pressure points: West | North | South | East

Examining who faces the most challenging season for the Pittsburgh Steelers and why.

The Steelers talked about running the ball more after parting ways with offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. It remains to be seen how the offense will look under Todd Haley, but the responsibility of the running game falls squarely on Isaac Redman.

An undrafted rookie out of Bowie State in 2009, Redman gets the first crack at being the Steelers' featured back this year. Rashard Mendenhall, the team's leading rusher for the past three seasons, is expected to miss at least the first six games of the season after having knee surgery in January, and Pittsburgh didn't draft a running back until the fifth round this year. At this point, the Steelers are saying this is Redman's job to lose.

The pressure is on Redman because this is more than holding onto the job for a season. Mendenhall is in the final year of his contract, so Redman is auditioning to be the primary runner for next year as well. Redman has earned this opportunity by his play after Mendenhall tore his ACL in the regular-season finale. He ran for 92 yards in the final regular-season game and 121 yards in the playoff loss at Denver.

The challenge for Redman is to prove he can handle the workload for a full season. He's had double-digit carries in only four of 36 career games (including the playoffs). Unless the Steelers sign a veteran before the regular season, there's no experienced safety net at running back. The backups behind Redman are Chris Rainey, Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay and Baron Batch. They have a combined 35 NFL carries. That's why the Steelers need Redman to step up and take charge of the position.