Fourth & Goal: Backs to the Future

After short-yardage successes, Mike Prisuta has the lowdown on the Steelers' running backs from offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

The hazier it gets at St. Vincent College the more clear the picture at running back becomes. For starters Rashard Mendenhall is the guy, first down, second down, third down, goal line, short yardage, what have you.

"He falls into the Edgerrin James-, Marshall Faulk-type category," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said on Monday. "They never have to come out of the game because they can pass-block, they can catch. They can do everything."

Another back would have to prove superior to Mendenhall as a specialist to pry specialist snaps from Mendenhall's grasp.

Isaac Redman may prove to be just such a back.

"He looks like he has a chance to maybe do some things for us in certain areas," Arians said.

The Summer of Redman continued on Sunday with Third-and-1 and Goal-Line drills.

Redman didn't blow up Goal Line the way he did a year ago. And he didn't dominate the second Backs-on-'Backers competition on Friday night at Latrobe's Memorial Stadium the way he had the initial such go on the second day of camp.

But he's already established himself as a much better player than he was a year ago, to the extent that he'll have to play himself off the roster from here not to ultimately be here.

Another lock is Mewelde Moore, a guy in whom the staff has great confidence as far as potentially playing on third downs and/or carrying the load or sharing it with Redman in the event something should happen to Mendenhall, or if Mendenhall ever needs a breather.

Assuming he can get healthy and stay that way, Frank "The Tank" Summers also has a job locked up because of what he's shown ever since last season as a blocker.

That leaves Jonathan Dwyer, Dwayne Wright and Justin Vincent presumably fighting for the mythical fifth roster spot.

The Steelers would love Dwyer to prove worthy of that, but the sixth-round pick from Georgia Tech has a lot of work to do toward that end. His Friday night in Latrobe was a disaster, and included Dwyer getting drilled repeatedly by Thaddeus Gibson in Backs-on-'Backers, Dwyer getting kicked out of an 11-on-11 period by running backs coach Kirby Jackson and Dwyer losing his lunch at one point.

His Sunday was much better -- 1-for-1 converting third-and-1s and 1-for-3 on goal-line TDs.

"He ran the ball hard," Arians said.

He also ran high, a flaw in technique that'll have to be corrected before Dwyer ever sees the field.

After blowing through the line for about 6 yards on his third-and-1 attempt, Dwyer was seeing stars following a vicious lick administered by head-hunting safety Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith.

"They try to kill the guy with the ball," Jackson said. "He's gotta be constantly reminded, ‘You gotta reduce your hitting surface. You gotta get your pad levels down at all times. You gotta be a great finisher. You gotta have great details on every single play.'

"He's working through that part of it and I think he'll get it. He's a sharp young man and he wants to be a good player, so we'll see."

Perhaps the most encouraging sight of all in Goal Line was the way the various components on offense not carrying the ball -- the linemen, the tight ends either at tight end or at fullback, and center Doug Legursky in a fullback role -- collectively came off the ball.

Linebacker James Harrison had the day off, so the stats deserve an asterisk. But asterisk or not, four TDs in seven tries and 4-for-4 on third-and-1s (3-for-3 if you discount the bootleg pass from Dennis Dixon to Moore) constitutes progress.

"That's the best I've seen in seven years," Arians said, "a huge change from the past."

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