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Randle El pulls gem from Steelers' bag of tricks

DETROIT -- Antwaan Randle El was a quarterback in college, so the Pittsburgh Steelers like to give the fourth-year wide receiver a chance to relive some past glory every now and then.

That opportunity came again Sunday night in Super Bowl XL, and he delivered in the most glorious fashion.

Randle El's 43-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Hines Ward off a reverse was the decisive play in the Steelers' 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

"I was hoping [the coaches] would call the play, and they called it," Randle El said. "When we called it, my eyes lit up and I had to try not to give it away. That's something we've been doing for a long time."

The seeds of this play were actually planted early in the game when Ward burned the Seahawks' defense with a reverse for 18 yards.

Few teams run reverses, or passes off them, better than the Steelers. Randle El and Ward had hooked up for a 51-yard touchdown pass earlier this season, so the Seahawks knew they might see it. But it worked anyway.

Running back Willie Parker took the handoff from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, ran to his left and tossed the ball to Randle El coming in the opposite direction. Roethlisberger threw a nice block that gave Randle El time to make a good throw. The Seahawks charged towards the line of scrimmage, but forgot about Ward. He ran through the secondary untouched and caught the pass in stride over the outstretched arm of Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant for the touchdown with 8:56 remaining in the game.

"We knew it was going for a touchdown," said Ward, who caught five passes for 123 yards en route to earning the game's Most Valuable Player award. "It was a great call by [offensive coordinator Ken] Whisenhunt, and a great throw by Antwaan. He threw it only where I could get it. It was a big touchdown for us. It really sealed the game for us."

The Steelers are known for their trick plays, yet they seem to work more often than not. The key is selling the deception.

When Randle El took the ball, he carried out the run fake and didn't look downfield until the defense charged toward him. The secondary appeared to totally ignore Ward and Trufant didn't react until it was too late.

"We talked about it the past two weeks," Trufant said. "We knew that Randle El is an ex-quarterback and Hines Ward is an ex-quarterback, so we already knew that they had a lot of trick plays up their sleeves. We just had to be aware of it, but on that play there, they just got us on one."

Randle El was known more for running than passing at Indiana University, though he left school as one of the most prolific dual threats in college football history with 11,384 yards in total offense.

He wasn't given much of a chance to play quarterback in the NFL. But the Steelers were so enamored of his athletic ability that they grabbed him in the second round of the 2002 draft.

Pittsburgh's offensive minds make great use of Randle El's versatility as a receiver, runner, punt returner and, of course, a passer. Before Sunday, he had completed 14 of 16 regular-season career throws for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

But no pass Randle El has ever thrown was bigger than his game-clincher to Ward on Sunday.

"It's satisfying, especially the way it happened," Randle El said. "It was right over his shoulder. The defender tried to reach and he couldn't get there and it gave us six."

And the Super Bowl trophy.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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