In today's NFL, everyone is extremely worried about protecting their image. I don't have a problem with that. When you have hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, it's your God-given right to protect your image. The Pittsburgh Steelers are very image conscious, or at least they would like you to believe that.
They booted Santonio Holmes out of Pittsburgh for a fifth-round pick after he had multiple off-the-field incidents. Jeff Reed had some off-the-field problems also, and as soon as he started missing kicks, he saw his pink slip.
However, Ben Roethlisberger, arguably the best player on the team, has had two accusations two years in a row, and is still on the team. James Harrison struck his wife and he his still on the team.
What that tells me is that image isn't everything. Winning trumps image every time.
Which brings me to everyone's darling, Antwaan Randle El. Randle El is utterly useless. I want to make it clear that I still believe that he is only on this team for PR reasons. The Steelers had a hellacious offseason, thanks to Big Ben and Holmes.
Randle El is considered a model citizen who is both a media darling and fan favorite. He does the right things and says the right things. That's all great, I'm glad that he's a good person.
That being said, there is no more reason for him to get any playing time, at all. He offers very little besides being good for an occasional trick play.
This past Sunday, against the Oakland Raiders, Randle El had zero catches. Yet the offense scored five touchdowns. Roethlisberger had arguably his best game of the season, throwing four touchdowns and running of another.
Instead of Randle El, we saw more of the young receivers, both rookies, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Sanders caught two passes for 35 yards and a touchdown. Antonio Brown caught one pass, but it was for 21 yards.
For the season, Randle El has 17 catches for 205 yards. Mediocre at its best. This isn't 2005 anymore. Randle El was overrated as a Steeler before and he's really overrated now.
He might be a good route runner and he may know the offense, but I would rather see Sanders and Brown from here on out. Their speed is more valuable to the team then just knowing the offense.
Not only is Randle El useless as a receiver, he's even more useless as a punt-returner. He actually has more fair catches then actual punt returns. He continues to be the fair-catch wizard, especially inside the 20-yard line.
On Sunday, Brown returned seven punts for 66 yards, including a 20-yard return. He also took one all the way back for a touchdown, but it was called back because of a holding penalty. That would have been his second touchdown of the season from returning kicks. You just don't get that kind of production from Randle El.
It isn't summer anymore; people have forgotten about the offseason incidents for the most part. There is no reason for Randle El to play, let alone be on this team anymore.
It's time for Sanders and Brown to get even more playing time. So what if they make some mistakes. You have to learn somehow. I would rather take a gamble on those guys making mistakes, in return for having some much needed speed on the field.
Another factor you have to consider is this: One reason the Steelers traded Holmes away was that they felt Mike Wallace could fill his spot as the No. 1 receiver in this offense. Wallace has certainly done that. The one thing that hasn't happened is no one has taken Wallace's spot as the third receiver.
Antwaan Randle-El just isn't good enough for that spot. It's time to see if Sanders or Brown is.
This article also appears on the Pittsburgh sports blog www.412sportstalk.net