Former Steelers wide out and return man Antwaan Randle El will not be joining the Hall of Fame as he enters retirement. He will not be remembered for having huge games in terms of yardage and return yardage and frankly, when his name comes up, thoughts of his touchdown pass to Hines Ward in Super Bowl XL is what you remember.
It’s hard to imagine a slot receiver and return man being as polarizing as ARE was in his days with the Pittsburgh Steelers. At a time when most people disagree about the quarterback or the head coach or a star running back, Randle El was often a lightning rod for Steelers’ fans.
No one doubted his skills or ability which were somewhat limited due to his smallish stature and you could never deny his work ethic or heart. Often, the guy played much bigger than himself and made many great catches when his team needed them the most but he was never going to be a superstar.
With that said, no one frustrated the Black ‘n Gold faithful more on a punt return than ARE. Often looking more like a water bug zigging and zagging across the surface of a pond, Randle El would consistently elicit screams of “Run forward you idiot!!!” and those were the nice ones.
Randle El could drive you insane with his ‘East-West’ running style on punt returns often extending the play to the excitement of many fans only to see the returns end with modest gains. Occasionally ARE would break one off, but mostly he frustrated and bewildered a football-knowledgeable fan base.
It isn’t often that you can say a wide receiver threw one of the most important touchdown passes in a team’s history, but with ARE you can. For every exciting, yet minimally effective return he had he also provided the Steelers with his effort. At the end of a player’s career I suppose that’s about all you can ask of the fan base.
Randle El will not have a bust in Canton and will forever be known as a returner with more potential than results in that area, but he will also be known for some great moments and for never giving anything than his best on Sunday afternoons.