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Randle El II? Steelers giving Marshall chance to be QB turned WR

LATROBE, Pa. (AP) -Rasheed Marshall has been in the Pittsburgh Steelers' training camp only a week, yet he has heard the name Antwaan Randle El about, oh, a thousand times.

Randle El was the former Indiana quarterback who successfully shifted to wide receiver with the Steelers, playing four seasons with them before signing a big-money contract with Washington last year. Versatility was arguably Randle El's biggest asset, as evidenced by the 43-yard touchdown pass he threw to Hines Ward that sealed the Steelers' 21-10 Super Bowl victory over Seattle 17 months ago.

Marshall, a product of Pittsburgh's Hill District, watched that game following his first and only NFL season with San Francisco and couldn't help but wonder if he might make a play like that one day.

"If that's what the assignment may be, I definitely have a background in doing it," said Marshall, a three-year QB starter in high school and at West Virginia. "Running with the football in the open field, reverses, things like that. I'm sure when those things start up and I'm the guy called upon to do it, I'm going to step up and do it."

Marshall's size - the Steelers list him at 6-foot-1, but he was a quarter-inch short of 6 feet coming out of college - dictated the switch from career-long QB to wide receiver. The 49ers made him a fifth-round draft pick in 2005, but he caught only one pass that season. He was released at the end of training camp last year.

Marshall had trouble holding onto the ball while with San Francisco, even during practice, and he sat out the 2006 season before joining the Steelers in January. The signing attracted little attention because it came exactly a week after Bill Cowher's resignation and during the much-watched search that led to Mike Tomlin's hiring.

While his one season in San Francisco didn't work out, Marshall expects to get a legitimate chance to make the Steelers' season-opening roster. They are not overloaded at receiver, and he might get the benefit of the doubt in any close competition because of his versatility. He can also return punts and kickoffs.

Uh, remember that Randle El guy?

While Randle El's statistics at Indiana are among the best for a quarterback in Big Ten history, Marshall's career at West Virginia was similar. A captain and team MVP, Marshall led the Mountaineers to a 24-12 record and was a Big East offensive player of the year. He ranks among the school and Big East career leaders in QB rushing (2,040 yards), touchdowns produced (68), career yards (7,598), TD passes (45) and yards passing (5,558).

Randle El and Marshall have spoken in the past, with Randle El offering advice to Marshall on how to make the position switch in the NFL.

"My agent was contacting a bunch of teams and had a lot of workouts set up, and he told me Pittsburgh was one of them," Marshall said, relating how he wound up with his hometown team. "I came here and did everything good and I'm pretty sure the scouting department liked what they seen."

With camp still not a week old, Marshall isn't letting himself think he must make more catches than this receiver or outrun that one to make the team.

"It's kind of early to look that far ahead," he said. "Right now, you're just trying to do everything you've got to do with your assignment. As the preseason goes along, you might start looking ahead a little bit. Right now I'm just trying to put my best foot forward and showcase my talents."

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