First, for any of you that aren’t aware of the Greatest Pre-Season Award in any sport, the Isaac Redman Award is given out annually to a young player who comes from relative obscurity and excites the fan base with their performance in training camp and the preseason.
Here are the guidelines handed down from days of yore, defining who is eligible for the award:
- Player must not be a draft pick higher than the sixth round.
- Player can only have participated in two other training camps prior to this one.
- Player demonstrated frequent references in comments regarding the likelihood of significant playing time in the coming year.
- Weight of general fan sentiment is the player is a “diamond in the rough”.
- Player does not have to make the team in the year of his nomination to qualify (this isn’t meant to be included in 53-man roster discussion).
So which players are eligible and where do they stand before the start of preseason?
Connor Heyward - As the Steelers 2022 6th round pick, he is eligible for the award, and he has the benefit of being Cameron Heyward’s brother. Cameron Heyward is the current embodiment of Steeler Football, and his little brother plays on the other side of the ball, where last season the team ranked 29th in both rushing yards and yards per rush.
The situation: If Heyward can score some touchdowns as a receiver or runner, throw around some crushing blocks and have the Steelers run game looking good when he’s in, Connor Heyward will have a good shot at being viewed as a key player for returning the Steelers to “smash-mouth football” and that’s a great way to win the Redman Award.
Mark Robinson - The Steelers 7th round draft pick is a running back turned linebacker. His lack of experience overshadowed his production in SEC football, especially his obvious struggles in coverage, but his highlights showed a player that read run plays quickly and got to the right spot reliably to fill run lanes and stuff runners. He also hit hard.
The situation: Robinson has looked good in camp, especially in coverage, where he has defended a good number of passes, and excelled in coverage drills that favor the offense. If Robinson can continue to be solid in coverage and put some highlight reel hits on running backs, he has a great chance of convincing fans he can be the Buck linebacker that will solve the Steelers run defense woes. Linebackers blowing up run plays is always going to be popular on the team Jack Lambert played for.
Jaylen Warren - Undrafted, and not a highly rated free agent after the draft, Jaylen Warren flew under the radar until the Steelers put the pads on at training camp, and then Jaylen Warren took off, breaking runs and making plays throughout the second week of camp.
The situation: The Steelers need a second running back to take some of the load off of Najee Harris, and Steeler fans are already tired of Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland. If Warren can roll his strong camp into a strong preseason, he will be hard to beat for the Redman Award. It’s Isaac Redman’s position, and at a time the fan base is hungry for a running back to step up.
There’s a month left before the season starts, and a lot of positions don’t have a great chance to shine during training camp. Here’s the eligible players that seem to have a decent shot at competing for the award.
Offensive Line - Just like the running backs, offensive lineman have a great opportunity this year to convince fans that they are the ticket to improving the offensive line, especially if they are moving defenders out of run lanes.
Jake Dixon - Dixon has been in the middle of a lot of camp scuffles, bring that nastiness to the preseason along with some good execution? That’s how you win over the fanbase.
Chris Owens - Played all over the line at Alabama, starting at tackle and center. He’s a powerful run blocker looking to follow J.C. Hassenauer’s route from Alabama backup to NFL backup.
Jordan Tucker - Tucker is listed as the biggest player on the Steelers roster at 6’6”, 340 lbs. Lacked polish in college but he’s a big guy that likes to bury people.
Defensive Back - A deep position but lacking an established pecking order. Won’t be the easiest to make the roster.
Chris Steele - Has had a great camp, lots of pass break ups in coverage and a few interceptions added in. It’s a tough road to winning the dime back job, but interceptions make anything possible.
Carlins Platel - A division II stand out he’s bee playing, and playing well at the nickel spot for the Steelers, has gotten some higher tier reps when players are out. A good showing in coverage, blitzing and run stopping (he’s looked good in camp) would be huge.
The rest of the eligible players
These players haven’t been making waves and/or are in positions that will be tough to stand out and get fans excited. That doesn’t mean they can’t win the award, they just have a harder road to winning.
Chris Oladokun (QB)
Matteo Durant (RB)
Master Teague (RB)
Tyler Snead (WR)
Cody White (WR)
Tyler Vaugns (WR)
Nate Gilliam (OL)
Donovan Jeter (DL)
Delonte Scott (LB)
Donovan Stiner (DB)
Nick Sciba (K)
That’s all the eligible players for the award. Do you have a personal favorite for the award this year? And what role on the team do you hope we find a diamond in the rough to fill?