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Isaac Redman Award 2023: Updates, new candidates ahead of Week 2 preseason

After one preseason game, who stands out for the coveted Isaac Redman Award?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

If you are new to the Behind The Steel Curtain community you may not be aware of the Isaac Redman Award’s existence. Going back to 2012’s training camp it has been given annually to a longshot story that becomes a fan favorite based on the comment section of BTSC articles, much as RB Isaac Redman became a camp darling in 2009-2010.

The award has grown to the point that it has its own section on Redman’s Wikipedia page. There’s a BTSC fan vote before each season starts to determine who the top dog is out of a field full of nothing but underdogs.

It’s been a very difficult year for us to find and hold onto candidates for the Isaac Redman Award as explained in this excellent Aug. 2 Fanpost by Toronto Steeler Fan, but today, we’ll break down a co

Who qualifies for the Isaac Redman Award?

The criteria for the award as explained in an article from 2014:

  • 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 the 53-man roster discussion)

This year it’s an a-war-d of attrition

As Toronto explained in his Fanpost, 7th-round pick CB Cory Trice had become the frontrunner until a knee injury ended his rookie season. Undrafted free agent RB Alfonzo Graham was getting buzz to potentially make the roster as depth behind Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren until a shoulder injury took him out. Fellow UDFA FB Monte Pottebaum retired just as his campaign got rolling. Toronto identified the top four candidates remaining as OL Spencer Anderson, WR/return specialist Jordan Byrd, QB Tanner Morgan, and OLB David Perales. We now have a preseason game to further an opinion on each.

  • Spencer Anderson played LG, RG, and RT during the Steelers’ 27-17 victory over the Buccaneers. As an OL his effort was as noteworthy as that versatility in that you didn’t hear his name called for any mistakes, pretty much the best report any lineman ever gets.
  • Jordan Byrd created zero buzz on several return opportunities, caught one pass for 6 yards, and ran a jet sweep that lost 4 yards.
  • Tanner Morgan displayed his lack of practice reps and looked about how you would expect a 4th string QB to look. Playing with, and against, the back-end roster guys he completed 5 of 8 passes for 36 yards with an ugly INT.
  • David Perales got his feet wet with a decent amount of playing time but was mostly not affecting the action with one tackle on the stat sheet.

Thinking outside the box

Surely, we have to have other candidates step into the void, don’t we? A few outside-the-box suggestions were made and dismissed in the comments to Toronto’s Fanpost.

  • Could LB Mark Robinson repeat as the award winner? That was shot down as he made the roster last year and can’t be considered a “diamond in the rough” anymore. With the recent signing of Kwon Alexander the Steelers have now acquired three 2022 starting LBs that block Robinson’s path to meaningful snaps this year.
  • If 2021 3rd-round OL Kendrick Green, who did not play a down last year, converts to FB, would he qualify since he wasn’t drafted at all as a FB? S That seems to go against the spirit of the award as he is not what Carl Spackler in Caddyshack would call a “Cinderella story, out of nowhere”.
  • Steelers GM Omar Kahn is in his first full offseason and has the fan base excited with what they’ve seen so far, how about him? Kahn has been coming to training camp for about 2 decades so he doesn’t qualify even if we bend the criteria to allow non-players.

Any new Isaac Redman Award candidates?

Let’s throw some late entrants into this race!

While he didn’t stand out in the game Friday with one catch for 11 yards, TE Rodney Williams has gotten some excellent reviews from training camp sideline reporters.

Depth at tight end makes playing time for Williams hard to get, but Omar may just use this depth in some sort of trade before the season starts if he wants to secure another team’s likely cut before that player has to pass through the waiver process. Zach Gentry is on a one-year contract. If Kahn feels he can better his roster by offering the strong blocking and limited receiving abilities of Gentry, would it surprise anyone if he made another trade? If Tomlin and Kahn are impressed by Williams like the sideline reporters are, I could certainly see them dealing away some depth at TE to shore up another position group.

Another name to toss into the hat is newly signed S Trenton Thompson. Thompson played a total of 12 snaps for the Giants last year as a rookie. He saw plenty of playing time Friday and made an INT in his Steelers debut, just nine days after joining the team. Nuke LaLoosh from Bull Durham would approve of how Thompson “announced his presence with authority!” While there are plenty of veterans ahead of him at the safety position, until we see them on the field Thompson has an extended audition.

What are we thinking BTSC? Light up the comment section with thoughts on these candidates as well as anybody needing to be added to the discussion. These young men only have about two weeks to earn our much sought-after votes. Let’s see who shines under that kind of extreme pressure. Good luck!