Tomlin: Isaac Redman to start

Updated: September 3, 2013, 5:31 PM ET
By Scott Brown | ESPN.com

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin confirmed Tuesday that Isaac Redman will open the season as the team's starting running back.

[+] EnlargeIsaac Redman
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsIsaac Redman will be in the starting lineup at running back when the Steelers face the Titans.

"We know what Isaac is capable of. He's answered the bell for us in the past," Tomlin said at his weekly news conference. "We expect him to do it in a big way moving forward."

Redman played in the Steelers' first preseason game only as he was hampered by a pinched nerve in his shoulder. The former undrafted free agent practiced fully Monday and said he is ready for a full workload.

Tomlin said that Redman "has a clean bill of health."

The Steelers' depth chart lists Redman and rookie Le'Veon Bell as the starters, but the latter is out for the 1 p.m. ET game Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. Bell, a second-round draft pick, is recovering from a mid-foot sprain. He is out of a walking boot, and Tomlin said there is a chance Bell could take part in some individual drills this week in practice.

Bell's absence does not necessarily mean Redman will be the Steelers' feature back. Tomlin said the Steelers will "spell" the fourth-year veteran, though he added that the rotation behind Redman has not been set. LaRod Stephens-Howling will likely be the third-down back, and Felix Jones also figures to get some carries in relief of Redman.

Jones impressed the Steelers enough in two preseason games -- and a short week of practice -- that they kept the sixth-year veteran over Jonathan Dwyer, who led the Steelers in rushing in 2012.

Stephens-Howling and Jones, acquired in an Aug. 23 trade with the Eagles, will also be the Steelers' primary kickoff returners.

"We're continuing to get to know Felix," Tomlin said. "We like his natural run instincts. He quickly proved that he can do some positive things in terms of running the football."

Redman opened last season as the starting running back, but he finished with just 410 yards and two scores and averaged 3.7 yards per carry. He rushed for a career-high 147 yards against the Giants in early November, but the 6-foot, 230-pounder didn't receive more than nine carries in the eight games that followed that performance.

Redman said it was difficult to get into a rhythm while splitting carries with other backs. His goal after getting a second chance to start: not giving the Steelers a reason to take him out of games.

"If everything holds up and I stay healthy," Redman said, "I'm planning on going out there and performing and [keeping the coaches from] wanting to put anyone else in."

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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