The great thing about the NFL is that there are so many positions that every year, there is almost always at least one player who has a breakout year on every team, no matter how good or bad the team is. This is the part in a 32 part segment detailing one potential breakout player for the 2012 NFL season on each NFL team. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, that player is running back Isaac Redman.
The Steelers have lost Rashard Mendenhall to a torn ACL, but they may have an even better running back waiting in the wings in Isaac Redman. Mendenhall is an overrated player so his torn ACL may be a blessing in disguise for them. Mendenhall has a career 4.1 YPC, while Redman has an average of 4.5 YPC.
With Mendenhall out last year for most of week 17 and all of their playoff loss to the Broncos, Redman had 92 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and 121 yards on 17 carries. Those 121 yards would have been the 2nd most yards Mendenhall had all season and the 7.1 YPC he averaged in that game would have been Mendenhall’s highest total since week 3 of the 2010 season. On top of that, the 213 combined yards rushing he had in those 2 games would have been the most productive back-to-back two game stretch since weeks 3-4 of 2010 for Mendenhall.
Redman is also the more well rounded back. Despite less playing time, he matched the 18 catches that Mendenhall had in 2011. He also was more trusted by the coaching staff to pass protect, despite his backup status, with 94 pass protection snaps to 42 for Mendenhall. As you can expect, ProFootballFocus did grade him as the superior pass protector.
They also graded him as the superior runner and player overall (playoffs included), despite his backup status and the fact that he played fewer snaps. This makes sense as Redman averaged 3.3 yards after contact as opposed to 2.5 for Mendenhall, averaged 4.7 YPC to 4.1 YPC, and broke 25 tackles on 127 carries (19.7%) as opposed to 30 broken tackles on 228 carries (13.2%) for Mendenhall.
The Steelers were already starting to take notice of Redman’s talent last year, giving him 91 carries to Mendenhall’s 220 even before week 17. Redman also played 318 snaps to Mendenhall’s 457, as he played more as a blocker and receiver out of the backfield (which goes back to my point that Redman is more well rounded).
Mendenhall is expected to miss at least the first 6 games of the season as he’s expected to start the season on the PUP, but Redman is the more talented back and might not give Mendenhall, a free agent after the season, his starting job back even when Mendenhall returns from injury. There’s serious fantasy upside with Redman and major upside for the Steelers’ running game with a more talented back behind a better offensive line.
If you’re interested in doing a fantasy football league with me, here’s the link (no draft date set yet, currently standard, with the option to become PPR with group vote). http://msn.foxsports.com/fantasy/football/commissioner/Registration/Private.aspx?league=55086&password=FanSpot2