The Boys Are Back in Town: Foote and Randle El Ready to Ignite Steelers


If Larry Foote is good at anything, it's getting you excited.

He made a fairly pedestrian tackle of Rashard Mendenhall in Pittsburgh's 28-20 victory over host Detroit last season, and he jumped up, Stomped, and got his defense fired up.

Tell me you didn't smile when you saw that.

He did the same thing in a game against Minnesota early last season. Detroit actually competed with the eventual NFC North champions, and Foote was helping stuff the Vikings high-powered offense for a half.

As he quickly found out, though, one half was probably too much to ask from the hapless Lions.

SteelerBro and I attended the Vikings/Steelers game at Metrodome in 2005, and there was a point where Foote made a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, did The Stomp in SteelerBro's direction. SteelerBro jumped up, waving his towel, and Foote pointed at him, yelling and sort of motioned his arms in the air, encouraging the noise.

He's a emotional and vocal leader, and he comes to a defense that desperately needs both.

Antwaan Randle-El got a rather ridiculous contract from the Spendocrats in Washington after that 2005 season. He coupled some decent punt returns in with a few gadget plays, and it turned into a five-year parlay where he didn't produce much as a third receiver, or punt returner.

The Steelers' symphony played on, winning two division titles and a Super Bowl without him. But Pittsburgh did it without an outstanding punt returner, and without a veteran receiver who wasn't accused of domestic abuse (see: Wilson, Cedrick). Stefan Logan is a capable kick returner, but punt returns weren't a strength last season. A slew of Steelers returned punts in 2008, but contingency returner Santonio Holmes was the only one who provided any explosion. Nate Washington did a decent job, but his El-like departure after Pittsburgh's latest Super Bowl championship brought in Mike Wallace, an impressive but inexperienced player.

Moves for depth? Yes. Not eye-popping? Indeed. Veteran players with ability who bridge the gap between two championship teams and play within a familiar system? Now we're on the right page.

These signings in no way reflect positional controversy. But they are both well-liked players at a low price who can provide a team in a transitional period between veteran leadership and youthful contribution. And for us nostalgia fans, chills go up our spines thinking of No. 50 and No. 82 making plays, no matter how routine, and hopping off the ground, excited, providing a spark to their teammates.

Pittsburgh gets a boatload of intangible factors from two relatively young players who lead as if they're 10 years older. Both know how to win.

Most importantly, neither of them won with their previous teams. Like many free agents who leave Pittsburgh, they saw low levels of individual success and even lower levels of team success. They're hungry. They're healthy and ready to be contributors to a championship level team.

In other words, they are perfect additions to the Steelers.

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