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These backup QBs can do super things

Associated Press

Detroit — A discombobulated kicker made the most surprising fling in Super Bowl history — Garo Yepremian's bar-of-soap pass attempt that resulted in a fumble and provided a comic ending to Miami's perfect 1972 season.

A couple of undersized players who know how to grip the laces could provide the most unexpected throw — or catch — in the latest title game.

Pittsburgh's Antwaan Randle El and Seattle's Seneca Wallace are the "X" factors in Super Bowl XL.

"You never know," Randle El said mischievously.

And that's the point. During the playoffs, both of them stunned defenses and put their imprints on some of the NFL's biggest games. Randle El set up a trick play in a first-round win over Cincinnati, and Wallace had the sweetest catch in the NFC title game.

"Some guys can do it, and some guys can't do it," Randle El said Tuesday. "You certainly can't force it on them, and you can't teach it. If they've got it, they can do it. If not, then they can't."

These two definitely have it.

In his fourth season, Randle El has developed into the Steelers' most versatile player. The former Indiana quarterback returns punts and starts as a receiver. And, should the defense relax, he can air it out.

"Whenever he is in there, he is a threat and you never know what he is going to do," offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. "That gives you more of an element of unpredictability."

Only 5-foot-10 with elusive moves, Randle El was one of the toughest players to catch in college. At Indiana, he was the first Division I-A player to throw for 6,000 yards and run for 3,000. The Steelers liked the way he returned kicks, and turned him into a receiver to get him on the field more.

Occasionally, he'll line up behind center — an old, familiar spot — for a direct snap. Every so often, he'll get a handoff and take off. And, occasionally, he'll make a napping defense pay for forgetting that he's still a quarterback at heart.

He took a handoff from Duce Staley and threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward in a Nov. 13 win over Cleveland. In four NFL seasons, Randle El is 7-for-8 for 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a passer.

In the playoff win at Cincinnati, he showed off his arm in another way. He took a direct snap from center, ran right, then turned and threw a beautiful lateral across the field to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — the kind that only a real passer could make.

The Bengals' defense was so flummoxed that Roethlisberger had two receivers wide open downfield. His 43-yard touchdown pass to Cedrick Wilson put the Steelers in control.

Whisenhunt trusts Randle El with anything.

"He is so much more of a threat because he is a full-time starter," he said. "He is on the field a whole lot more than in the past. You can put him in anywhere, and whatever you need him to do he can do those things. It gives you an extra element."

So, what tricks are in Sunday's game plan?

"Next question," Randle El said, breaking into a knowing smile.

Wallace suggests that the Seahawks are going to play it straight on Sunday, which means he'll be on the sideline as the No. 2 quarterback instead of lining up as a stealth receiver — which is exactly what he did in the conference championship game.

Wallace, a third-year quarterback out of Iowa State, sometimes lines up as a receiver and a defensive back during practice. Coach Mike Holmgren sent him in as a receiver in the NFC title game against Carolina, and he set up the Seahawks' first touchdown by putting a double move on Ken Lucas to get open along the sideline.

His sensational over-the-shoulder catch while getting both feet down accounted for a 28-yard gain and set up Seattle's first touchdown.

"Oh, man, it was awesome — just being part of a championship game and being able to catch a ball," Wallace said.

Unlike Randle El, who isn't counted on as a backup passer, the 5-foot-11 Wallace is first in line if anything happens to Matt Hasselbeck. Holmgren would be taking an unusual Super Bowl gamble by using his No. 2 quarterback as a receiver.

"Whatever I can do to contribute, I want to do that," Wallace said. "But my main focus right now is making sure that if I'm needed to step in and play quarterback, I'm ready."

The Steelers will be ready if he happens to show up in some other role.

"He can cause problems if we don't address the issue right away in practice this week," linebacker James Farrior said. "Those are the types of athletes that can change the game."

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