With one-time starter Rashard Mendenhall now out of the picture, the Pittsburgh Steelers are holding an open competition at the running back position this offseason.
Early signs seem to indicate that rookie second-round pick Le'Veon Bell will open the regular season as the starter. However, there should still be plenty of opportunities for Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman—the team's top two rushers a season ago—to make major contributions in the Steelers' revamped rushing attack.
Redman, in particular, could emerge as a pleasant surprise, as the four-year veteran has taken the extra steps this offseason to be a different player in 2013.
"I plan on coming in to training camp 10 pounds lighter and am working on getting faster." Redman recently said via the team's official website. "I have already worked with a speed coach and my goal is to get faster.
"I have started training and working out months ahead of schedule. I am on a strict diet."
Coming into the season lighter and faster could put Redman in position to serve as the team's primary change-of-pace back.
Redman, who rushed for 410 yards on 110 carries, was listed at 230-pounds last season. Coincidentally, Dwyer and Bell are currently listed at 229- and 230-pounds, respectively.
In addition to sharing a similar build and playing weight, Dwyer and Bell share a similar hard-nosed, between-the-tackles style of running. While both possess adequate speed, neither is a burner or particularly shifty in the open field.
If Redman can succeed in his efforts to become a quicker, lighter and more nimble runner in 2013, he could be the perfect complement to a bruising Dwyer/Bell tandem.
However, if he truly wishes to become a difference-maker this season, Redman should also work to improve as a pass-catcher. Though he appeared in 30 games, Redman has managed to haul in just 37 passes over the last two seasons (he did have an impressive 12.8 yards per reception average in 2012).
Of course, if Redman or any other running back were to emerge as a dual-threat player, offensive coordinator Todd Haley will have to find a way to better utilize Pittsburgh's backs in the passing game. Last season, only 79 of the team's 354 receptions (22 percent) were by running backs.
According to Redman, the trend could change in 2013.
"I can’t say what we should do as far as the offense, but we have implemented the running backs into the passing game a lot more under Coach Haley."
While many feel that the Steelers have gotten away from their smashmouth identity in recent seasons, 2013 could very well return the running back to the forefront of Pittsburgh's offense.
Thanks to an offseason of commitment and dedication, Redman could be in store for the biggest role of his career.