View Full Version : Steelers' Randle El reminder of what used to be

11-02-2008, 10:09 PM
It takes a special player who wants to return punts in the NFL.

Or, as Steelers receiver Nate Washington wondered, "Who wants to look straight up with people running at you full speed?"

They are hard to find, players with the aptitude and attitude to return punts and kickoffs. Whether the Steelers have them or not, they do not have the results to show for it.

The Steelers are among the worst teams in the NFL at both kickoff and punt returns. They rank 30th in punt returns and are tied with Minnesota for last in kickoff returns. Tomorrow, they will be reminded just how good they once were when they play the Redskins in Washington and Antwaan Randle El tries to break one on them.

Randle El averaged 12.0 yards per punt and returned two for TDs in 2003, then averaged 10.2 and scored two more in 2005. He scored four TDs on punts in his four seasons with the Steelers and another on a kickoff. His four scores on punt returns is a Steelers career record, and he returned another for the Redskins last season.

"I am not going to toot my own horn or anything, but I know they struggled the first couple of years,'' Randle El said about the Steelers' punt returns the past two seasons. "I don't know how they are doing this year in terms of the return game. I know I was missed that first year because I saw a lot of the mistakes they had."

In the 2 1/2 seasons since he left, the Steelers have one TD each on a punt and kickoff return.

"Antwaan was special,'' said Hines Ward. "He's well missed. We haven't had a guy like that here in a long time.

"When you have a guy back there like that, guys took pride in springing him open. We have to get back to that because Santonio can be that special player for us. We just haven't had any opportunities.''

Santonio Holmes, banned from returning punts last season, is back this year after coach Mike Tomlin moved him up to replace Mewelde Moore. While Holmes averages just 5.3 yards per punt return this year, he has the only punt return for a touchdown post-Randle El, and he averaged 10.2 yards in 2006.

"It's a different mindset,'' Holmes said of the job. "Only a few athletes are able to do it and I feel like one of those lucky, special guys who can catch a ball when it's in the air. I treat it as if it's a deep ball, that's what makes me special catching deep balls."

The Steelers have had their share of good punt returners through the years. Rod Woodson, nominated this week for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, made his first of 11 Pro Bowls as a punt returner. Receivers Lynn Swann and Louis Lipps were outstanding punt returners in their early years with the Steelers. Even Hank Poteat and Andre Hastings had good seasons doing it.

Lately, though, there has been little reason not to grab a beer when the Steelers punt or kickoff return team is on the field.

Najeh Davenport has handled the kickoff duties since his return Oct. 1. He may be the largest kickoff returner in the league at 247 pounds, so he's not the classic scooter taking back kickoffs. He's averaged 21.7 yards on 10 kickoff returns in three games with a long of 27 yards.

"He's a determined runner, a downhill, determined runner,'' special teams coach Bob Ligashesky said.

Davenport may not be a threat to take one back, but the Steelers do like his dependability. He catches the ball and goes forward, basically.

Holmes is a threat and believes he is close to breaking one.

"Looking at the film coach showed us in our special teams meeting, I'm pretty sure we have a big opportunity to take one back,'' Holmes said. He added a disclaimer lest the Redskins take that as boasting.

"Nah, I wouldn't exactly say that, but if our guys do exactly what we need to in the special teams game as far as setting up the right blocks and give me the opportunity, then we shall."

It matches Randle El's theory that "I feel like I am always one block away from breaking open.''

Ligashesky said the Steelers have a theory too.

"Catch the ball and make one guy miss and break one tackle."

And away you go.

It's been a lost art in Pittsburgh recently.

"There's not much difference between an average return team and a poor return team,'' Tomlin noted. "An average return team has popped a big one. We have yet to do that."

At least they have not fumbled.


It's good 2 hear Santo is getting there. But, GOD, I miss ARE. ... and Peezy. :popcorn:

11-02-2008, 10:23 PM
It's good 2 hear Santo is getting there. But, GOD, I miss ARE. ...

He wasn't worth what the Redskins paid him. Sorry, he simply wasn't.

tony hipchest
11-02-2008, 11:09 PM
He wasn't worth what the Redskins paid him. Sorry, he simply wasn't.while this may be true, many steelerfans would say tha j peezy wasnt worth the money the dolphins paid him, or the titans paying chris hope (for what is now a below market value deal).

Galax Steeler
11-03-2008, 03:36 AM
I wish we had a good return game and we haven't had one since the Randell El days.

11-03-2008, 05:18 AM
Randle-El was a great kick returner but not worth the money he was wanting to play

11-03-2008, 08:25 AM
I liked Randle El when he was in the slot, but honestly, I don't think he was that great of a returner. He was always a threat, but ended up to much of an east/west runner with dancing feet.

11-03-2008, 09:18 AM
I liked Randle El when he was in the slot, but honestly, I don't think he was that great of a returner. He was always a threat, but ended up to much of an east/west runner with dancing feet.

I know a friend of mine agrees with you 100%! He used to stand up during ARE's punt returns and scream "RUN FORWARD, RUN FORWARD!"

I agree that while ARE is missed on special teams, the Redskins were offering too much at the time to resign him. Hopefully Holmes will improve a bit and get our punt return averages up again.

11-03-2008, 10:05 AM
He did so much for the Steelers and everything he did. He gave us a lethel return game on punts and kick offs, was a pretty good second receiver with speed and quickness, and finally a dam good gatchet player with the super bowl throw to Ward.

The Duke
11-03-2008, 10:10 AM
I like him, but he is way overpaid

Give me nate any day of the week