A constant rotation of healthy bodies along the line of scrimmage didn’t help. Neither did the inability of Dwyer or Redman to make a strong case for supplanting Mendenhall as the team’s No. 1 back. Dwyer led the team with 634 yards on the ground — with Redman second at 410 — but both had trouble dealing with the physical punishment of being the feature back.
Pittsburgh signed the restricted free agents to one-year deals in the offseason and both seem to understand this is their last chance to find a permanent home with the Steelers. Redman spent a portion of his offseason working at a speed camp in Tampa, Fla., where he lost 10 pounds and tried to put the ankle issues that plagued him in 2012 firmly in the past.
“It was tough,” Redman said. “I felt like it was my year to show I could be a No. 1 running back.”
It didn’t quite happen, which is one of the reasons Redman wasn’t surprised when the Steelers used a high draft pick on Bell. Pittsburgh needed depth after Mendenhall left and rookie Chris Rainey was cut. Redman just isn’t convinced that Bell’s high draft selection means Bell has the inside track on being the starter when the season opens Sept. 8 against Tennessee.
“There’s going to be a heated competition in training camp,” Redman said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
So is Dwyer, who shares the same agent as Bell. The two became friends before the draft and that hasn’t changed even now that they find themselves battling for the top spot on the depth chart, a position Dwyer believes he’s earned.
“I think this year it’s up to me,” Dwyer said. “It’s my job to lose, and I’m going to do everything that I can to fortify myself here.”
Time may be running out. Bell has already won raves from the coaching staff with his preparation, and his durability at Michigan State makes the Steelers hopeful he can take the pounding that comes with a heavy workload. It certainly wasn’t a problem last fall, when his 382 carries led all of the NCAA’s bowl subdivision.
Considering his size, Bell has an ability to make himself small when a defender comes his way, allowing him to avoid the punishing collision that threaten to cut short a career.
“I’m either bouncing off guys or sliding past guys,” he said. “Guys mostly just try to grab me and hold onto me. It’s not like I take a lot of big hits.”
Bell, and the Steelers, would prefer he deliver them instead. And if he can bring a semblance of order to the backfield, even better. Bell insists he’s up for anything.
“I’m not sure what they’re looking for,” he said. “I’m just trying to help this team go out there and compete and win games.”
In this Aug. 31, 2012, photo, Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell (24) gets past Boise State’s Jerell Gavins (5) to score the game-winning touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in East Lansing, Mich. Bell figured to have a bigger role this season in Michigan State’s backfield, but his opening game last week against Boise State was a head turner. Bell had 44 carries for 210 yards in perhaps the best offensive performance by any player in the country.(AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)
NOTES: The Steelers signed two more draft picks on Thursday as WR Marcus Wheaton (third round) and CB Terry Hawthorne (fifth round) both agreed to four-year deals. Terms were not disclosed … The team is off for the weekend. Organized team activities start up again Tuesday.