Rex Grossman might be the talk of the town after his impressive performance in the Redskins 16-7 defeat of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the preseason opener for both teams, but the Washington coaching staff must also be happy with the play of their running backs, two newcomers in particular. Recently acquired Tim Hightower and rookie sixth round pick Evan Royster showed both an ability to run the ball effectively and, perhaps just as importantly, the ability to pick up the blitz. (though not always, right Evan?)
Hightower, the former Richmond Spider and sometime Arizona Cardinals starting running back, rushed 10 times against the Steelers for 44 yards. He also caught one pass for eight yards. Nice stats for a preseason game, but the real key is he looked Clinton Portis-esque at times picking up blitzing defenses and buying his quarterback time in the pocket. Ryan Torain will need to return quickly from his broken hand to keep this a competition for the starting running back job, that's how good Hightower looked Friday night at FedEx field.
The former Penn State star Royster played in the second half of the opener, and he too looked extremely comfortable carrying the ball in the Redskins zone blocking scheme. Royster was actually the leading rusher in the game, carrying the ball 15 times for 66 yards. Expectedly, the rookie had some good and bad moments trying to protect his quarterbacks from getting lit up. Royster did show enough promise blocking in the backfield, combined with his work running the ball, that he certainly looks to be a challenger to fellow rookie Roy Helu Jr. for a backup role in the Washington backfield..