RB Script Flipped for Final Week

The Steelers moved Isaac Redman up and LaRod Stephens-Howling in to the first-team offense the final week of spring practice. It was a fuel injection.

PITTSBURGH – Le'Veon Bell wasn't aware the Steelers had given him "a mansion," as teammate William Gay said of Bell's locker stall.

"The mansions are in the corners, and they have those closets there," Gay pointed out to the rookie running back, who opened his accompanying closet in wonderment.

"Troy has one," Gay said. "Ben has one."

There is no such locker in one corner. Hines Ward used to have the third one. That's the one they just gave to Bell.

"I'm guessing they think highly of him," Gay said.

And the Steelers do. They gave him a mansion. But, they haven't given him the ball – yet.

No, minicamp – and thus spring drills – came to a close Thursday with Isaac Redman as the Steelers' No. 1 running back.

The coaching staff promoted him to the first team this week a couple of hours before running backs coach Kirby Wilson told reporters – in his only interview – to pay no attention to the depth chart.

Redman said the same thing Wednesday after spending two full days as the No. 1 player at the only offensive position without a clear starter.

"It doesn't really mean anything," said Redman. "Yesterday coach said for me to start running with the first team, so ..."

So he did.

Redman had already received several reps with the first team this spring, so it wasn't just for the look.

Perhaps the Steelers are hoping to inspire Jonathan Dwyer into losing those 15 pounds in the next six weeks.

This might be the better reason: Free-agent acquisition LaRod Stephens-Howling can really run.

Redman confirmed his move up had allowed Stephens-Howling to take third-down reps with the first team. And on Tuesday, Stephens-Howling found himself with a checkdown pass and nothing but open grass in front of him.

Few can cover open grass as quickly as the 5-foot-7 former Pitt star.

On Wednesday, Stephens-Howling made an even better play. He ran into the flat looking for the ball over one shoulder while getting it over another. Without losing a step, Stephens-Howling flipped his body, caught the pass, and motored down the sideline for a sizable gain.

"He's fast," Redman said of Stephens-Howling. "Some guys are just quick and some guys are fast. I feel he has that good combination, that quick 1-2 step. He can stretch and get going. We're going to need that, to be able to catch those passes and take it 70, 80 yards. He's done it against us; he's capable of doing that."

In 2011, Stephens-Howling took a short pass over the middle and ran 73 yards past James Farrior, Gay and Ryan Clark for an Arizona Cardinals touchdown. It's the longest of three 50-plus plays from scrimmage in Stephens-Howling's four-year career.

The Steelers were able to incorporate that speed on their first-team offense this week, and apparently did so at the expense of Dwyer.

Redman shook his head in disagreement.

"The running back position is wide open," Redman said. "Coach (Mike) Tomlin's not labeling anybody third-down back right now or short-yardage or every-down back. Basically he's saying the position's wide open. I don't think there's even a depth chart right now. They're trying to get guys in on certain plays to see what certain guys can do."

The group will be the most heavily scrutinized at training camp. And, considering the deficiencies at every other offensive position, it could end up being the most bloated group – numbers-wise – coming out of camp.

"Man, it's a talented group," Redman said. "I think we have everything. It's going to be a heated competition when we get to training camp. I feel we can play well together. I don't know what the coaches' mind frame is going to be but they have a good group of guys to pick from. They are going to have to make some hard decisions."

NOTES – The Steelers signed 4b draft pick Landry Jones to a four-year deal to complete their draft class on the final day of spring practices. The rookie QB enjoyed one of his best practices of the spring on Wednesday. ... The players will report to training camp on July 26, six weeks from Friday. SCI.net has a full battery of fresh stories set for publication before then.


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