"A lot of people think it's a scary job, but I like it a lot."
Thursday, September 28, 2006
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Willie Reid does not like the job of returning punts. He loves it. Whether he gets to pursue his desire depends on the other party, in this case coach Bill Cowher.
"There will be some changes," Cowher declared after the Steelers practiced for the first of two days during their off week. "I am not ready to announce any of them now. We have a whole week to see what our options are and assess it from there."
He did not have to announce that cornerback Ricardo Colclough no longer will return punts. That's assumed. Rookies Reid and Santonio Holmes, along with veteran Cedrick Wilson are the candidates to replace him. All are receivers.
Cowher acknowledged that in the preseason he felt Reid, who owns the Florida State punt-return record with a 15.4-yard average, would be his punt returner. The problem is that if he uses Reid, he either must be among his top four receivers or he must dress five, plus special-teamer Sean Morey. The top four receivers through the first three games are Hines Ward, Wilson, Nate Washington and Holmes.
"The difficulties again are the makeup of the roster on game day," Cowher said. "You can easily sit there and say you want this and this, but it's not always easy to do. I'm doing what I think is in the best interest of the team and I will make those decisions accordingly. If I think that will help us dramatically, then I will make that decision. Again, it comes down to a coach's decision, and those are things I have to make week to week."
Reid said he understands that, but he would love a crack at the return job.
"A lot of people think it's a scary job, but I like it a lot. You have to have courage, you have to have awareness. If you've been doing it for awhile, it's not as scary as people make it out to be. It's something I enjoy doing, something I think is real fun."
Penn State saw just how much fun he had in the Orange Bowl with 180 yards of punt returns, including a touchdown.
He returned 10 punts for 88 yards in the preseason, seven more than anyone else. He, like Cowher, thought he would return punts in the regular season.
"I had a good little feel I was going to be that guy," Reid said. "But it's a numbers game. Whenever the coaches call and whenever they get ready for me to play, I'll be there."
Reid said Colclough, "just had a bad game. If you're a punt returner, you're in the limelight. If you mess up one time like that, a lot of people see it. It's a mistake he made that I'm sure he won't make it again if he gets the opportunity."