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lamberts-lost-tooth
06-11-2006, 09:31 AM
Replacing Randle El no easy task


By Joe Starkey
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, June 11, 2006


Washington Redskins receiver Antwaan Randle El - looks strange in print, doesn't it? - keeps the Steelers close to his heart.
So close, in fact, that he was referring to them as "we" during his charity golf event Friday at Nevillewood.

Somebody asked Randle El which absence left by a former Steelers player this offseason - Kimo von Oelhoffen, Jerome Bettis, Chris Hope or himself - would most affect the team.

"You have to ask (the Steelers)," he said, laughing. "We lost key people, but we have some guys still there who certainly can get it done."





He's right on both counts. The Steelers did lose important players and vital veteran leadership, but they retained enough of both to be a bona fide contender in the AFC.

The two biggest losses were Hope and Randle El, the punt returner.

Randle El the receiver can be replaced, though he improved dramatically in four years and was integral to the team's playoff success (think of the touchdown catch at Indianapolis).

Randle El the returner is another story, though the Steelers can't be accused of ignoring the issue of replacing him. They made an inspired move by drafting Florida State return man Willie Reid in the third round. All you need to know is that Reid broke Deion Sanders' single-season punt return record at Florida State.

Still, Randle El's just plain different when it comes to darting around in tight spaces. We're talking about the only player in college football history who passed for 6,000 yards and rushed for 3,000 -- and he didn't do it in a rinky-dink league (he played quarterback for Indiana in the Big Ten).

Nobody in Steelers history -- not Louis Lipps or Rod Woodson -- had four punt-return touchdowns in his career. Randle El did. Last season, he was the only player in the NFL to return two for TDs.

Simply put, he changed games (think of the win at Minnesota), giving the Steelers an advantage most teams didn't have.

Punt return average has been declining across the NFL, to the point where the league-wide average last season (8.10) was the lowest in nearly 30 years. That spurred a run on return men in this year's draft and was part of the reason the Redskins lavished Randle El with a seven-year, $31 million contract that included $11.5 million in bonuses.

The Steelers believe they got a steal in Reid, who was fourth in the country in punt return average (17.5) last year and tied for first in TDs (three).

Watching him in the Orange Bowl was kind of like watching Randle El. Every time a ball was kicked in the air, you got the feeling it could be returned very quickly in the opposite direction. Reid busted one for an Orange Bowl-record 87 yards.

You could say that, because of their well-fortified depth chart, the Steelers were positioned to make a "luxury pick" in the third round. I'd call it a necessity pick, even if first-rounder Santonio Holmes also could return punts.

It'll be a bit unnerving with a rookie back there, but Reid, who says he has run the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds on a track, already has imagined taking one to the house at Heinz Field.

Somebody needs to bring a sign that says, "Free Willie."

"You have to picture in your head what you'll do before it happens," Reid said. "So, hopefully, I can bring one back for the Steeler crowd and have the crowd go crazy -- and they'll love me."

He'll have to earn their love. Randle El sure did.

lamberts-lost-tooth
06-11-2006, 09:33 AM
Randle Rl?

Black@Gold Forever32
06-11-2006, 09:51 AM
I disagree with Starkey on this one. Sure El was a great punt returner but Willie Reid was awesome at Flordia State returning punts. Reid has the potential to be better then El on punt returns.

lamberts-lost-tooth
06-11-2006, 09:57 AM
I disagree with Starkey on this one. Sure El was a great punt returner but Willie Reid was awesome at Flordia State returning punts. Reid has the potential to be better then El on punt returns.

I agree with you completely...I think that Holmes will be a dramatic upgrade at WR..and Reid may end up being just as explosive at returning punts...I am MUCH more concerned about our new starting safety than I am WR

Black@Gold Forever32
06-11-2006, 10:15 AM
I agree with you completely...I think that Holmes will be a dramatic upgrade at WR..and Reid may end up being just as explosive at returning punts...I am MUCH more concerned about our new starting safety than I am WR

Yea Holmes will be a better WR then El no doubt. El only had 35 catches and a TD during the season. I think Wilson can match or better those numbers since he will be the number 2 heading into the season. Throw in Holmes and even Nate Washington in the mix and the Steelers will be fine at WR. Punt returns I'm sure Reid will be fine. Yea its alittle nerve racking having a rookie back there. But Reid has the speed and skills to be very dangerous.

About Ryan Clark I like the guy. He seems like the Steelers type of player. I wasn't that biggest fan of Chris Hope. Hope was good not great. I expect Clark to struggle at first since he is learning a new system and playing with new teammates. But by mid season I think Clark will be fine and will prove to be just as good or better then Chris Hope.

Stlrs4Life
06-11-2006, 10:20 AM
I disagree with Starkey on this one. Sure El was a great punt returner but Willie Reid was awesome at Flordia State returning punts. Reid has the potential to be better then El on punt returns.



Exactly. I'll miss El for his trick plays as a QB though.

Black@Gold Forever32
06-11-2006, 10:51 AM
Exactly. I'll miss El for his trick plays as a QB though.

Thats a good point. But you the Steelers will always run trick plays. Bettis had his share of TD passes throughout his Steelers career. Hines Ward, Cedric Wilson and Heath Miller all played QB in their careers in high school or college. I'm sure Whiz will cook up some more interesting stuff this year.

tony hipchest
06-11-2006, 11:13 AM
the trick plays will, in part, be replaced by a much improved, strong armed ben throwing the ball downfield to speedy wr's. the tricky part is whiz calling these plays when teams think we will run the ball.

Black@Gold Forever32
06-11-2006, 11:22 AM
the trick plays will, in part, be replaced by a much improved, strong armed ben throwing the ball downfield to speedy wr's. the tricky part is whiz calling these plays when teams think we will run the ball.

Exactly Tony thats how you make up for the loss of El's two big TD passes last year. Both TD passes were big. The one against the Browns came after Batch went down and Tommy came in. Of course the one in the Super Bowl was the biggest since it clinched the Super Bowl.

You make up for that by letting your young franchise QB throw more. Ben led the NFL in TD pass ratio. If Ben is given the chance I see no reason why Ben couldn't make a serious run at Terry Bradshaw's single TD pass record which is 28.

Steelersfan
06-11-2006, 11:36 AM
Exactly Tony thats how you make up for the loss of El's two big TD passes last year. Both TD passes were big. The one against the Browns came after Batch went down and Tommy came in. Of course the one in the Super Bowl was the biggest since it clinched the Super Bowl.

You make up for that by letting your young franchise QB throw more. Ben led the NFL in TD pass ratio. If Ben is given the chance I see no reason why Ben couldn't make a serious run at Terry Bradshaw's single TD pass record which is 28.

I think Ben can break that record without throwing more myself. He had 17 last year and missed 4 games. So I'm sure he would of been close if he had played every game last year.

And as far as replacing EL, I think we have taken some great steps to do that. What we will miss is his 4 years in the system and knowing what to do.

Man_Of_Steel
06-11-2006, 11:49 AM
Has Starkey even seen what Reid can do yet? I didn't think so. Before drawing the conclusion that El can't be replaced as a punt returner, please, please lets see what Reid can do. This is totally off base by Starkey. He is counting chickens before they are hatched. Let them play a game first for cripes sake! :mad:

Black@Gold Forever32
06-11-2006, 12:38 PM
I think Ben can break that record without throwing more myself. He had 17 last year and missed 4 games. So I'm sure he would of been close if he had played every game last year.

And as far as replacing EL, I think we have taken some great steps to do that. What we will miss is his 4 years in the system and knowing what to do.

Ben would have been close if he hadn't missed those four starts. I havn't broken down what pace he was on for the record. But I bet Ben would have finished around 23 TD passes if he hadn't missed those starts. Point is let Ben throw more. I don't want to become the Rams. But it wold be nice to have more balance. Steelers usually have a balanced offense in the first half of games. I can't argue with getting a lead and then grinding the game out in the second half of games. But it would be nice to throw alittle more in the second half of games.

Koopa
06-11-2006, 01:46 PM
decent article i guess, but el is so overrated on the punt returning. reid will do just fine, and maybe he won't dance around a million times and then go.

StillerPaul
06-11-2006, 01:47 PM
I'm quite sure we won't miss 35 catches and 4 pass completions. Santonio should more than make up for the loss with his deep abilities. And as far as the passes go, Ben will have to just work a little harder. ;)

Black@Gold Forever32
06-11-2006, 02:12 PM
decent article i guess, but el is so overrated on the punt returning. reid will do just fine, and maybe he won't dance around a million times and then go.

Well I hear you what you are saying about El dancing around to much at times. But El does hold the Steelers record with most career punt returns for a TD with 4. That should count for something. But I agree totally with you that Willie Reid will do just fine and has the potential to be just as good or better then El on punt returns.

OX1947
06-11-2006, 03:06 PM
35 rec 558 1TD, 12 rec 119 1TD
3-3 67 yds 1 TD, 1-1 43 yds 1 TD
44pr 448 yds 2TDs, 10pr 116 yds
Rushing in the Reg and playoffs 78 yds.

Man gave us 1429 total yards and 6 TD's. All anyone looks at his his 1 td and 500 yards recieving. The man did alot and he did even more where it does show on the stat sheet, ala back pass to Ben in the Cincy game. Although he wasnt worth the contract he got, Randle El did a crap load for this team in alot fo ways.....

SteelShooter
06-11-2006, 03:30 PM
Exactly. I'll miss El for his trick plays as a QB though.


I couldn't agree more! That is what I've posted on here recently...ARE and the Gadgets.

His play at WR is already replaced, his play at Punt Returns is well on it's way to being replaced. But I am still concerned, however slightly, by the loss of him on gadgets. With him, Jerome, Hines, Cedric, and Ben....Bro, you never knew where it was coming from, or going to!

You nailed it! :thmbup:

Ambridge
06-11-2006, 06:35 PM
I disagree with Starkey on this one. Sure El was a great punt returner but Willie Reid was awesome at Flordia State returning punts. Reid has the potential to be better then El on punt returns.

That's the only thing.
Randle El was a proven commodity and for now we're only banking on the possible potential of Reid.

I used to scream and be critical of Randle El on how almost every time he would dance around on a punt returns.......but on the average he got us respectable field position and would break one for a TD when we really needed one.
I don't like the way he left town but there's no doubt he will be sorely missed.

Black@Gold Forever32
06-11-2006, 07:03 PM
That's the only thing.
Randle El was a proven commodity and for now we're only banking on the possible potential of Reid.

I used to scream and be critical of Randle El on how almost every time he would dance around on a punt returns.......but on the average he got us respectable field position and would break one for a TD when we really needed one.
I don't like the way he left town but there's no doubt he will be sorely missed.

I said El was a great punt returner. Sure he will be missed until Reid proves himself. I'm just confident that Willie Reid can do just as good or better. Reid did break Deion Sanders records at Florida State for punt returning. Sure it was just college. Success in college doesn't alway translate to success in the NFL. But I trust Colbert and Cowher with the drafting of Willie Reid.

SteelerzGirl
06-11-2006, 08:06 PM
Exactly. I'll miss El for his trick plays as a QB though.

Me, too! I liked Randle El's razzle-dazzle. I still can't believe he's no longer a Steeler. But how exciting it will be to see how Reid works out. :smile: