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Old 09-27-2005, 11:57 PM   #1
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Default Randle El learns from his mistake

A day later, one play still stood out from the Steelers' 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots.

It was the one where Steelers coach Bill Cowher had to be yelling, "El, No!"

Steelers receiver Antwaan Randle El had just made a 49-yard run-and-catch with the Steelers holding a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.

Instead of going to the ground after a defender wrapped him up, Randle El turned his body toward oncoming fellow receiver Hines Ward and pitched the ball backward, hoping Ward would take it the final 15 yards for a touchdown.

But instead of making something out of nothing, Randle El made nothing out of something.

Ward, in blocking mode, was surprised by the pitch and mishandled it. The Patriots' Eugene Wilson fell on it at the 11. And instead of staring at perhaps a 17-7 deficit, the Patriots had a sudden surge of momentum.

Ward took some blame for the play, but you got the sense he would never have tried it himself.

"He didn't say, 'Hines, I'm about to pitch it,' " Ward said. "He saw me and I looked at him. I thought he was going to get out of (the tackler's grip) and I was going to try to block. The ball hit me in the hands, so I needed to catch it, I guess. I take responsibility for that."

Randle El's turnover cost the Steelers, at the minimum, a potential field goal. It might have cost them a chance to extend their 16-game regular-season winning streak.

"He was trying to make a play," Ward said of Randle El. "If he had fallen down on the ground, we're in the red zone. But we tried to press too much and make too many things happen. We end up fumbling the ball and you can't do that."

The Steelers went scoreless the remainder of the first half.

"You only get a number of opportunities to make big plays, and that was a big play," Ward said.

Randle El faced the scrutiny surrounding his play in the post-mortem.

"I take the blame for that," Randle El said. "It was a poor decision by me. I should have taken the gain and been done with it. I think the pitch was too hard for Hines to handle. I should have just held onto the ball."

Safety Mike Logan said Randle El is a playmaker and that playmakers can be unconventional at times. Had the play worked, Randle El would have been a hero.

That said, the turnover was part of a forgetful day for Randle El, who dropped one pass and failed to out-battle Patriots defensive backs for a few others. Other than the 49-yard grab, Randle El had only one catch for seven yards. He also averaged only 6.7 yards on three punt returns.

"In hindsight, obviously you wouldn't want to do that in a game like this," coach Bill Cowher said. "Against this caliber of a football team, you cannot ruin opportunities like that. He understands that. I just told him to let it go, learn from it, and let's move on. Don't dwell on it."

The Steelers have the weekend not to dwell on it. They're off before playing at San Diego on a Monday night, Oct. 10.
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