Is Cedrick the new Gadget Man?

With Antwaan Randle El gone, Cedrick Wilson becomes the full-time split end, and perhaps the full-time Gadget Man for the Steelers.

PITTSBURGH – Cedrick Wilson made the mistake of being honest with the media last year when he complained about not having enough passes thrown his way.

By the end of the regular season, Wilson's attitude changed; not because he was seeing any more passes, but because the team was winning.

Wilson caught two touchdown passes in the playoffs, and, with the departure of Antwaan Randle El, has become the full-time starting split end for the Pittsburgh Steelers opposite Hines Ward.

Naturally, Wilson was asked this week if he'd like to see more passes thrown his way this coming season.

"I just want the team to win," he said. "Whatever we have to do to win, that's the No. 1 goal."

Wilson has done some winning in his time. There was the Super Bowl last February, of course. And there was the 1998 national championship at the University of Tennessee. Wilson was also the MVP of the Tennessee state high-school championship game in 1996, when he threw four touchdown passes.

He was the quarterback at Melrose High in Memphis (as well as the point guard on the state runner-up basketball squad). He was considered the state's best quarterback that year, and the second-best player in the state according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

"We threw the ball almost every snap in high school," said Wilson, who's hoping replace Randle El in that department as well. The Steelers love to use gadget plays and Wilson's ready for the call.

"I'm ready to throw that rock, man," he said. "You know I'd rather catch it though, but if they ask me to throw it I can throw it. I can throw the rock."

At Melrose, Wilson passed for 6,558 yards and 104 touchdowns. Does the coaching staff know about these amazing statistics?

"Oh, yeah. Whis jokes with me all the time. He knows I can throw the rock," Wilson said.

"I'm aware," said offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who said he's also aware that tight end Heath Miller threw a touchdown pass at the University of Virginia on a trick play.

Hines Ward is another former quarterback and he's thrown three passes in his Steelers career. One was a pass interference penalty, one was an incompletion, and the first one, at Kansas City in 1998, went for a 17-yard gain.

"We're all practicing throwing just in case our number's called," said Ward.

Randle El completed 14 of 16 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns in his four-year stint with the Steelers. Those stats don't include the 43-yard touchdown pass he threw in the Super Bowl or the two-point conversion pass he threw against Cleveland in the 2002 playoffs.

Aside from Randle El and Ward, the only other non-quarterbacks to throw passes for the Steelers since 1996 are Jerome Bettis (6-3-1 63 yards, TD) and Josh Miller (1-1-0 81 yards, TD), and both of those players are gone as well.

That leaves Wilson, Miller, Ward and maybe Willie Parker left to throw the gadget pass for Whisenhunt.

"Willie can't throw at all," Whisenhunt said. "Duce (Staley) says he can throw a little, but I'm not sure how we're going to approach it. Let the other teams guess."

It appears that Wilson is the leading candidate. He completed his only pro attempt with the San Francisco 49ers for a six-yard gain. His main competition as the next gadget man for the Steelers appears to be Ward.

"Hines blocks too much. His shoulder's all banged up," Wilson said with a laugh. "I can throw the rock. If they want me to run the trick plays, I'm ready for it."

NOTES – Joey Porter was excused from practices this week. He's due back next week for the last three weeks of coaching sessions. … Ward collided with Ryan Clark on a pass route Thursday and limped off the field. He favored his right ankle while walking along the sideline, but the injury is not believed to be serious.

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