Steelers welcome back Randle El
Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El speaks to the media during a press conference at the Steelers' South Side training facility Tuesday.
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Not long after wide receiver Limas Sweed was walking out of the Steelers office, Antwaan Randle El came strolling in, wearing a straw fedora and the look of a man happy to be back home again.
Four years after he left to sign a seven-year, $31 million contract with the Washington Redskins, Randle El officially rejoined the team he helped lead to victory in Super Bowl XL Tuesday -- a move that creates a logjam at wide receiver and brings into question the future of Sweed, who, like Randle El, was once a No. 2 draft choice.
After signing a three-year, $7 million contract that included a $900,000 signing bonus, Randle El pronounced himself thrilled to rejoin former teammates such as Hines Ward and Casey Hampton, players with whom he exchanged phone calls and text messages the past couple days.
"The bottom line is, it came down to coming home to a more comfortable situation for me and, certainly, [having] some history here," said Randle El, one of 10 players released Thursday by the Redskins. "It was one of the things that got me back here. I totally enjoyed playing before here and I know I will enjoy it now."
He also said he was brought in to be a wide receiver and not a punt-returner -- a role he performed with great success in his first stint with the Steelers from 2002-05. Randle El holds the club record for career punt returns for touchdowns (4), including two during his final season with the team.
"We haven't delved into the return; we just talked about being a No. 3 [receiver] and, if Hines or Santonio [Holmes] go down, then, of course, being outside," Randle El said. "The focus is being the No. 3 receiver right now. That's what I want to come in and do. And be productive at it. Punt returns, that's lying in the woods. It's not something I want [to do]."
Before anyone thinks Randle El (5 feet 10, 185 pounds) will replace rookie sensation Mike Wallace as the team's No. 3 receiver, understand this: The Steelers have several offensive packages in which the third receiver can be either Wallace or another player, depending on the formation. It was that way last season and it will continue to be that way next season with Randle El.
Randle El's signing comes one day after the Steelers signed free-agent wide receiver Arnaz Battle from the San Francisco 49ers to a three-year, $3.9 million contract. The addition of Randle El and Battle gives the Steelers seven receivers, including Sweed and Tyler Grisham -- two more than they kept on their 53-man roster last season.
The Steelers also signed offensive tackle Jonathan Scott, who started eight games last season with the Buffalo Bills. Scott, who signed a one-year, $545,000 contract, could be used as a backup for Willie Colon and Max Starks.
"We had other teams [who were interested], but we told [the Steelers], hey, you know, I'd like to be there, so let's get some things worked out." Randle El said. "It happened pretty quickly. I'm glad I'm here."
First Published March 10, 2010 12:00 am