Pittsburgh Steelers: Randle El Signing Might Mean Trickier Offense
While the return of Antwaan Randle El was met with a relatively lukewarm reception, it could signal a change that Steelers fans have been clamouring for since his departure after Super Bowl XL.
It might just mean Bruce Arians is going to get creative.
Paying Randle El $7 million over three seasons to be a fourth receiver (Steelers reporter Ed Bouchette has confirmed that Mike Wallace will remain the team's primary third option) would be ludicrous. The Steelers don't spend that way.
Therefore, they didn't sign him to simply be a fourth option.
Arians' offense has been called anything from boring to predictable in his three years at the helm. Last season, the number of trick plays (including reverses) that the Steelers ran could be counted on one hand.
That likely won't be the case this season.
The most memorable play in Randle El's first tour of duty with Pittsburgh was when he threw a perfect strike to Hines Ward in the Super Bowl to ice the game and give then-coach Bill Cowher his first championship.
You might see that play more often now.
The Steelers need to be less predictable, particularly in the red zone. Randle El gives them a ton of options.
He's a great target and had wonderful chemistry with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger when the two played together previously. There's no reason to believe he won't repeat that success now. He runs good routes and makes tough catches. He's reliable, something no Steelers fourth option was last season (see: Sweed, Limas).
He can run with the football on a reverse too. He's not as speedy as he was a few years ago, but he still has a good burst and remains elusive. The rest of the team's receivers aren't quite as well versed in reverses, so Randle El's presence will be welcomed.
He also can throw the football or be part of a trick pass play. He did both in the 2005 playoffs to great success. Since then, no Steelers receiver has shown such ability.
In short, if he comes onto the field, defenses immediately have to pay attention to him, because he could be involved in any number of scenarios. Suddenly the offense, even if they are running the same plays, is not nearly as obvious.
Randle El can also, in case of injury, serve as a backup quarterback, giving the Steelers more freedom with shaping their roster and choosing active players on game day. That, too, is value not provided by anyone since his departure.
He's not going to be a starter, punt returner, full-time slot receiver, or every-down player. What he will be is a missing piece that, by sheer presence on the field, will make the Steelers that much more dangerous and unpredictable.
For Bruce Arians, he might be a godsend.
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