Randle El, Bryant frustrated with roles
Antwaan Randle El just shrugged Thursday when he was asked about the Steelers’ decision to select him rather than former Pitt wide receiver Antonio Bryant in the second round of the 2002 draft.
“At the time, he felt like it was a slap in the face and a lot of other people did,” said Randle El, who occasionally talks to Bryant. “But the Steelers have their reasons for what they do. I guess they know what they’re doing.”
Randle El and Bryant will be on opposite sidelines Sunday at Texas Stadium when the Steelers play the host Dallas Cowboys.
Two years ago, when it came time for the Steelers to make their second-round choice, they targeted Brigham Young defensive end Ryan Denney. The Buffalo Bills scuttled that plan by trading up to get him.
That left Randle El and Bryant, and the Steelers gambled on Randle El.
An incredibly gifted athlete with big hands, he had been a four-year starting quarterback at Indiana. Bryant was one of the top wide receivers in college football, a Biletnikoff Award winner and All-American as a sophomore. The Cowboys took Bryant with the next pick.
Two years later, both players are their teams’ No. 3 receivers, but neither is happy about it. Randle El accepts it quietly, but Bryant got so upset at a June minicamp practice that he balled up his jersey and threw it at coach Bill Parcells.
Bryant, who declined an interview request this week, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he and Parcells are similar personalities.
“We’re the type of people that can’t stand to lose,” he said. “Some people just go away with, ‘I got my game check,’ and after that, they’re cool. But me, it’s pride.”
Said Parcells: “He’s really got a ways to go before he gets a real feel of being a wide receiver — I mean a consistent wide receiver.”
Nonetheless, Bryant has been more of a big-play threat than Randle El, with 98 receptions for 1,527 yards and eight touchdowns. Randle El has 93, 953 and four, but the Steelers have received additional value from three punts and one kickoff returned for touchdowns. Bryant is not a returner.
Randle El’s value as a punt returner has diminished this season, with teams kicking higher and forcing him to call seven fair catches. He called only 12 last season.
“I might have to take some chances,” he said.
Randle El had been a star at every level of every sport he has tried. That’s why he sometimes grimaces when a Steelers coach puts up two fingers to indicate that the second team is going in and Randle El must be part of it.
“It’s something you just have to deal with, I guess,” he said. “It’s not what you want. That’s why I love punt returns because it’s just me back there. I know I’m the only one getting the ball. Not to be selfish, but at the same time, you have to remember what I’ve come from and what I’ve done in college, (being) the No. 1 guy and go-to guy.”