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Old 06-11-2006, 09:31 AM   #1
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Default Replacing Randle Rl no easy task

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.
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Old 06-11-2006, 09:33 AM   #2
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Default Re: Replacing Randle Rl no easy task

Randle Rl?
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Old 06-11-2006, 09:51 AM   #3
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Default Re: Replacing Randle Rl no easy task

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.
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Old 06-11-2006, 09:57 AM   #4
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Default Re: Replacing Randle Rl no easy task

Quote:
Originally Posted by Black and Gold Forever 32
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
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Old 06-11-2006, 10:15 AM   #5
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Default Re: Replacing Randle Rl no easy task

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Originally Posted by lamberts-lost-tooth
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.
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Old 06-11-2006, 10:20 AM   #6
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Default Re: Replacing Randle Rl no easy task

Quote:
Originally Posted by Black and Gold Forever 32
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.
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Old 06-11-2006, 10:51 AM   #7
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Default Re: Replacing Randle Rl no easy task

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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.
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Old 06-11-2006, 11:13 AM   #8
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Default Re: Replacing Randle Rl no easy task

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.
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Old 06-11-2006, 11:22 AM   #9
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Default Re: Replacing Randle Rl no easy task

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Originally Posted by tony hipchest
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.
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Old 06-11-2006, 11:36 AM   #10
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Default Re: Replacing Randle Rl no easy task

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Originally Posted by Black and Gold Forever 32
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.
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