PITTSBURGH (AP) — An NFL preseason is for the rookies and the retreads, the players who haven't been heard from since college and those whose colleges, much less the players themselves, aren't very well known themselves.
September? That's the time for Ben Roethlisberger, Jeff Reed and Ryan Clark, the players who will make only a few cameo appearances when the games mean nothing but will be counted upon to win big games — and, yes, perhaps the Super Bowl — during the season.
That's why Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin made little of a 20-10 exhibition victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night that resembled the Super Bowl only because the Steelers and Cardinals were on the same field again. The players and the atmosphere, the intensity and the tempo weren't nearly the same.
"We have a lot of work in front of us," Tomlin said.
To Tomlin, it's not always what a coach sees in August that helps him formulate a roster and decide who he can count upon in October and November. It's also what he doesn't see.
Tomlin saw the Cardinals throw 49 times with four quarterbacks, yet not get into the end zone until the game was nearly over. He saw Roethlisberger make some crisp throws while looking relatively sharp in brief playing time. He didn't see any turnovers or indecision from his starters.
He also saw Charlie Batch complete a long pass to Limas Sweed. He didn't see Batch get hurt and be finished for the season the way he did in last year's preseason opener.
Tomlin also watched yet another undrafted rookie free agent make an impression, just as Willie Parker and James Harrison once did in similar roles before becoming Pro Bowl players and multiple-time Super Bowl winners.
What Tomlin doesn't know is whether former Bowie State star Isaac Redman's two touchdown runs signaled that he's a player to watch for the rest of camp, or whether he merely took advantage of going against third- and fourth-stringers.
If the Steelers' published depth chart is accurate, Redman is seventh and last among their running backs.
"Hopefully we will get some more looks at him against some varsity guys," Tomlin said. "He did a nice job with what he faced. We are not going to make too much of it. We will continue to work and move forward."
Redman wasn't running against Cardinals regulars Darnell Dockett or Clark Haggans or Karlos Dansby, but rather the guys who back up those starters' backups. No matter, Redman understands that all a player in his role can do is take advantage of every carry, every opportunity, every moment he's still wearing a uniform and drawing an NFL paycheck.
Especially when a running back goes into a game backing up Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore and Justin Vincent, Stefan Logan and Frank Summers.
"When you are an undrafted free agent, you've got to do whatever they tell you to do and you've got to impress somebody," said Redman, the career rushing leader at Bowie State with 3,300 yards. "I know if I didn't impress anybody, there was a good chance I wouldn't even make it to the first game. I just wanted to make an impression any way I could."
He's already done that twice in a week. He gained the starters' attention by scoring twice during goal-line drills on Sunday and by serving as the lead blocker on a third TD run.
"I just wanted to make the most out of every opportunity I had, whether it was running the ball or going down on kickoffs and punts," said Redman, who scored the game's first two touchdowns on runs of 3 and 5 yards during the fourth quarter. "They put me in on goal line and I tried my best to get in."
Tomlin also had to like Daniel Sepulveda's 49.5 average on six punts. Last season, with Sepulveda hurt, that represented about two games' worth of Steelers punting production. There also was first-round draft pick Ziggy Hood's sack and the pressure he created that led to fellow rookie Joe Burnett's 42-yard interception return, plus Sweed's two catches.
Wide receiver Hines Ward, who caught a couple of passes before joining the other starters on the bench by the end of the first quarter, predicts Sweed "is going to grow as a receiver and make some big plays for us."
Tomlin just hopes they're in November and December, and not during what he calls "August football."
Nothing super, but new Steelers make impression in victory over Cardinals
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