WR isn't thrown by duty as Randle El's replacement
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson might be asked to pass the ball as well as catch it this season.
A question last August centered around which Steelers receiver would replace Plaxico Burress. Now, it's who will replace the receiver who replaced Plaxico Burress?
Not only did Antwaan Randle El replace Burress at split end last season -- although at a good 8 inches shorter -- he threw a touchdown pass to help the Steelers win the Super Bowl.
Then, like Burress before him, Randle El flew to an NFC East coop, creating a spot for a new split end for the second consecutive season. Only this time, because of that Super Bowl touchdown toss by Randle El, Cedrick Wilson is being asked these days as much about his throwing arm as he is his ability as a receiver.
Yet it is as a wide receiver that Wilson will affect the Steelers' offense most, not the occasional pass he might throw. Randle El, after all, threw only three passes in the 2005 regular season. Most importantly, he scored on just one touchdown reception, matching the number of touchdown passes he threw during the regular season.
And as far as replacing Randle El, Wilson already has done that. While Randle El started every game at split end in 2005, Wilson alternated playing time with him at the position.
Wilson did not catch a touchdown pass in the regular season, but he caught two in the playoffs, when he led the club with an average of 24 yards on nine receptions. He led the team with a 17.3-yard average on 26 catches during the regular season.
He also has two of the Steelers' three scoring catches in three exhibition games this month, and his coaches expect bigger things from him.
"He proved that in the playoffs," receivers coach Bruce Arians said. "He can average big numbers down the field. He has good run-after-the-catch ability. He can turn off of full-speed moves as good as anybody I've ever been around."
Wilson signed with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent in 2005 from San Francisco, where he spent his first four years playing flanker, the same position he played at the University of Tennessee. There was a learning period when he came here to play split end.
"It's like moving from right tackle to left tackle," Wilson said. "It's a totally different game with footwork and everything. I think I am a lot better at playing the split end position than I was last year."