Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El will be forever remembered in Super Bowl history books. He’s the only wide receiver to ever throw a touchdown pass in the big game. It’s the greatest moment of his career, says the veteran wide receiver with the highest passer rating in league history.
With the Steelers representing the AFC in Super XLV, Antwaan stopped by for an in depth conversation with CYInterview before the big game. He talked about how the Steelers will beat the Packers, reflected on his personal Super Bowl history, as well as spoke about what’s in store for his future with the NFL. Randle El focused on the leagues ongoing collective bargaining, among many other compelling topics. You can read or listen to the entire interview below.
Listen to the Antwaan Randle El interview:
Chris Yandek: Before we get into everything, I was informed earlier in the week that you had practice today. How was it?
Antwaan Randle El: “Yeah. We had practice. It was good. We’re in the thought process. Just preparing in preparation for the Super Bowl. We want to get it and do a lot of it early before we actually get down there. Then when we get down there, it’s smooth sailing. It’s just review.”
CY: With all the things that this team has had to deal with this year, I wonder if you’re surprised in any way that you guys are in a position to be playing for a Super Bowl?
ARE: “No. We’re not surprised in any way. I know we probably surprised a lot of people out there and shocked a lot of people considering the things we went through earlier on in the season and then having so many injuries on the offensive line, just losing different ones. Even the defensive line with Aaron Smith going down, but we just persevered. We thank God for the opportunity. We certainly thank God for guys being able, players on our team being able to step up and fill right into those roles. We always talk about how the standard is the standard, no matter what happens, who goes down, you gotta be able to step in and keep this train going.”
CY: As you speak about that, I wonder how did you guys ground out those wins at the start of the season without Ben [Roethlisberger] back there as quarterback?
ARE:“People really disrespected our backup quarterbacks with having Byron [Leftwich], and also having Charlie [Batch] and having Dennis Dixon. We just knew we could go out and get it done with either three of those guys. We knew Ben wouldn’t be there, but we knew Ben had to make some plays. Just be able to get it going. So when those things happen, you rally around one another and you just pull together. It certainly worked out to our favor. We had some tough ball games, some very close ball games, but we were able to pull them out.”
CY: When that happened and you knew you weren’t gonna have your starting quarterback for a few weeks at the beginning of the year, did the players pull together and say, no matter what, we’re gonna find a way to win these games?
ARE: “Yes indeed, and again, we knew already. Now it was just a matter of just preparation. We got to be able to prepare. We know that we’re not gonna have him [Ben]. But hey, we gotta prepare. We were going into training camp knowing we weren’t gonna have him certainly many times. Going into preseason knowing we knew we weren’t going to have him. So we had to prepare as if he wasn’t going to be there. With that being said, guys were doing everything it took in practice, everything it took going through the preseason games to get ready for the regular season. So when the regular season came, it was like, let’s go. We end up starting out 3-1 in those first four games when they thought we were. Nobody gave us.”
CY: 0 and 4.
ARE: “Everybody thought we’d win one. Exactly. You get some that said 0-4. Some people said 1-3. 3-1 pulled it out, and again, it was a great opportunity. We took full advantage of it there.”
CY: Ben told me on the national calls last week that you and Hines Ward have done some mentoring for guys like Antonio Brown, Emanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace. What have you done to help these guys along?
ARE: “Well, one of the things is just encouraging the young guys, encouraging them, but then you also you have to be able to just kind of give them a feel of what’s going on and how it happens. We always talk about how preseason is one level of intensity and then you got the regular season. It’s a totally different level of intensity, and then of course the playoffs and then going into the Super Bowl. All these different levels of intensity, but you gotta be able to prepare and be ready for them.
We always tell them, it’s two things that get you off the field or get you out of the NFL. That’s not knowing that playbook and being out of shape. Those guys understood that. We always tell them, everybody has the talent. You got a lot of guys that got all kind of talent, but they don’t understand, can’t get lined up, don’t know the plays and stuff like that. You got a lot of guys who are very talented, know the plays, but I’m not gonna take the time it takes to get well in the right condition to be able to play this game of football.”
CY: People are wondering, is this gonna be it for you if the Steelers win, or are you gonna keep playing?
ARE: “Am I gonna keep playing?”
CY: Yeah. Are you keep playing no matter what happens here?
ARE: “Well, a lot of it comes down to what goes on with the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement). Certainly if it’s one of those things when it comes to the 18 game season, that’s something I’m just not gonna be a part of. That’s not something that I think should happen when it comes to, we play 16 games. That’s enough. But to add two more games, I think would be a little bit ridiculous. Then if you do add 18 games, you gonna have some guys that just aren’t gonna play two of those games during the regular season. So I’d just opt out not to come out and play if we’re gonna have an 18 game season. So that’s one thing.
Then the other thing, we’ll just have to see. I get two Super Bowls under my belt, we get this win, it would mean a lot. But I always, one thing I did pray about, I asked God for ten years. This is my ninth year. So playing one more, that would be great. We win this, I would love to come back and try to repeat cause I didn’t get that opportunity before cause I left right after that going to Washington. We’ll see how it works out. I do know this, God has a plan for my life. I’m stay right on board with that plan.”
CY: Six touchdowns, 323 yards, 0 interceptions, those are your quarterback numbers in the league. You always seemed to have the passion to want to be a quarterback in football. Do you still feel passionate about that all these years later, and do you believe in some way you could’ve been a quarterback in this league leading a team?
ARE: “Well, I’ve always dreamed about that man. You gotta remember, when I came out, I wanted to go and just say I’m a quarterback. This is my second opportunity to go pro ball. My whole idea, growing up, my dream was to go pro ball in basketball, baseball and football. When I got the opportunity to go pro in baseball drafted by the Chicago Cubs, my mom and dad told me no, you need to go to school. So that was like, that was my opportunity. It didn’t happen. When football came along, I wasn’t gonna let anybody or anything keep me from getting in. So I would’ve loved and still would love the opportunity to play quarterback in the league because I know I have the knowledge, have the arm strength and certainly have the leadership ability to get a team to a Super Bowl and win it.”
CY: Quick note, is it a consolation that you have the highest passer rating of anyone in the NFL to throw a minimum of 20 attempts, any consolation there?
ARE: “Yeah. That’s just a blessing it’s worked out that way. (Laughs) I try to be humble about it, but sometimes I toot the horn to some of my homeboys. So it’s been good for me. That’s for sure.”
CY: Are you gonna throw another touchdown pass in this Super Bowl? We gonna see a trick play?
ARE: “You know, I don’t know. Everybody knows it’s always in the game plan. It’s just what it is. It’s just a matter of it getting called. I’m not sure if it’s even gonna get called this Super Bowl cause we haven’t worked on it much. But I’ll tell you one thing, we’ll just have it. It’s just part of our arsenal, just like a two minute drill, something that’s always in the game plan. It’s like certain running plays, always in the game plan. Those type of things are always in the game plan and if it get called, certainly we’ll be ready to strike it up and get it rolling.”
CY: Only wide receiver in the history of the NFL to throw a touchdown in the Super Bowl, greatest moment of your career, maybe?
ARE: “Ah, yes. I would say the greatest moment of my career no question. Again, that was a test of always having the opportunity to throw the football and do different things. I did it earlier in the year and got a chance to do it in the Super Bowl. That’s the childhood dream right there you know, throw a pass in the Super Bowl and my childhood dream growing up, that was as playing quarterback. But how God blessed me to do it as a wide receiver makes it so much better than just doing it as a quarterback.”
CY: Are you going to be doing the punt returns for the game?
ARE: “Yeah. I’ll be doing punt returns in different situations of course. Me and Antonio Brown will be switching off just like we’ve been doing in the regular season.”
CY: So then how does this team find a way to beat the Packers and end that Cinderella run that the Packers have had? How does this team do it?
ARE: “I think we do it just the same way we’ve done in the regular season and also in the postseason. The biggest thing is you gotta prepare and that’s one thing we’ve been doing all this week and certainly we’ll be doing next. Just preparing and making sure we know where we need to be, when we need to be there on the football field cause they have a lot of different things they do on defense, a lot of different things that they do on offense and we gotta make some plays on special teams.
Knowing that, you prepare for that. So when you get in the game it’s no doubt. You know where you are supposed to be. You know how you’re supposed to get there and you can get it done. Then the other thing when it comes to talent, you just gotta let that take over, your ability to make big time plays, your ability to come up with turnovers, that’s how you win ball games. But the ball game is won during the week in the preparation. If you can prepare and be ready for that opponent, you have the best chance to beat that opponent.”
CY: Last question, random question, something I looked online, has anyone ever told you that you sound and talk like Eddie Murphy?
ARE: “(Laughs) No man. Nah. Maybe once I think, but that was because I was acting, not acting, but I do comedy and stuff sometimes just cracking jokes around my homeboys. Yeah. I never. Other than that, nobody’s told me that outright.”
CY: Maybe that’s the career after the NFL. Maybe you’ll be doing some stand-up [comedy].
ARE: “That’ll broadcast and we’ll see, unless God put me in a ministry somewhere. We’ll see. [Laughs]”
The photo used for this piece is credited to:
Michael F. Fabus
3400 South Water Street
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15203