Steelers could pull a Matte vs. Ravens

Receiver Randle El might see action at QB


Former Baltimore Colts great Tom Matte has a feeling the Pittsburgh Steelers are up to something for tomorrow's game against the Ravens.

Matte, a star running back for the great Colts teams of the 1960s and now a color commentator for the Ravens, has been besieged by calls from Pittsburgh-area radio stations this week wanting to know if Steelers receiver Antwaan Randle El can do it.

Randle El, like Matte before him, may be called into emergency duty at quarterback, though Randle El has not played that position since college. Normal starter Ben Roethlisberger (knee) is not expected to play.

Most feel that Randle El would only be used as a desperate measure due to injury, but Matte does not necessarily think it will take a knockout blow to Tommy Maddox to get Randle El in.

"They don't have too much confidence in Maddox, so I expect we'll see [Randle El]," Matte said.

If that happens, expect professional football to be set back 40 years. That was when Matte subbed for an injured Johnny Unitas and backup Gary Cuozzo at quarterback.

With offenses less reliant on the pass and defenses not as sophisticated as those in today's NFL, a running back doubling as a quarterback was not as big a risk then.

Matte, one of the first pro players to call plays from a list on a wristband, led the Colts past the Los Angeles Rams in the 1965 regular-season finale, then lost a playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, 13-10, in overtime on a disputed field goal by Don Chandler.

Matte completed five of 12 throws for 40 yards against the Packers. His three-game stint as a quarterback - the Colts played the Dallas Cowboys after Green Bay in a consolation game - remains one of his favorite stories.

"My teammates rose to the occasion," said Matte, who, like Randle El, was an option quarterback in college. "It was the biggest challenge of my life."

Does he think Randle El has a good chance of pulling off something like that with the way the game has evolved?

"Sure," Matte said. "He was a quarterback in college [at Indiana]. He has all the tools with his speed and athletic ability. They'll design some plays around his expertise. I think he can be a real asset to them."

Said Randle El to the Pittsburgh media: "I know coverages and can read defenses, and I'm able to make a play when it breaks down. I didn't have the best protection at Indiana, but when I had to make a play, I'd make a guy miss and throw the ball downfield - still keep the play alive and still be able to complete the pass."

Randle El, in fact, had a decorated college career. He became the only player in Division I-A history to throw for more than 6,000 yards and run for more than 3,000. He also is the only player to throw for 40 touchdowns and run for 40.

Those stats, though, mean very little in facing a Ravens defense that is third in the league. If the Steelers do, however, turn to Randle El, expect Ravens receiver Randy Hymes to perk up on the sideline, for Randle El would be living Hymes' dream.

"I played quarterback [at Grambling State], and it was always my dream to play quarterback in the NFL," said Hymes, the Ravens' third-string quarterback. "The same thing with Randle El, but he's getting more opportunities as far as how the offense is run to play quarterback, anyway. They got plays for him already, so he has that experience."

Randle El has run a number of specialty calls from quarterback, including a 12-yard rush from shotgun formation in the third quarter Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

"The guy is a great athlete. He can do some running plays, some plays the NFL hasn't seen in a while, option football," Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "He scares you back there."

The NFL may be bigger and faster than when Matte played, but chances are, defenses expressed a similar sentiment during his stint.

"I had a lot of fun," Matte said. "Of course, I had a lot of help. They did everything to protect me, and I'm sure they'll do everything to protect him."

Notes -- Right tackle Orlando Brown did not practice yesterday and was downgraded from probable to questionable with a sore back. He was in a car accident earlier this week in which he sustained the injury. Tony Pashos will start if Brown is unable to play, and rookie Adam Terry would be the top backup. Receiver Derrick Mason (thigh) was added to the injury report as probable. ... Coach Brian Billick gave a final word on Shannon Sharpe's criticisms of Kyle Boller earlier this week. The Ravens, apparently, are not holding a grudge. "Shannon will come back into this building like nothing has been said. It's nothing personal; it's just business. We'll sit him down, give him a burger and have a great time. Those guys get paid to have those opinions, whether they truly believe them or not. The more inflammatory, the more outlandish they can be, the more money they are going to make."

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