Super Bowl hero, at 36 years old, has trouble walking down stairs, remembering simplest things

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PITTSBURGH — Ten years after he threw one of the most celebrated passes in Steelers history, Antwaan Randle El has trouble walking down stairs.

“I have to come down sideways sometimes, depending on the day,” said Randle El, 36. “Going up is easier actually than coming down.”

Randle El was an electric athlete, versatile enough to run a route on one play and throw a beautiful spiral on the next, as he did in Super Bowl XL when he found Hines Ward for a 43-yard touchdown on a wide-receiver reverse pass to help beat the Seahawks 21-10. That his body has begun to betray him before his 40th birthday is hard to fathom. The crazy thing is that Randle El can feel his mind slipping, too.

“I ask my wife things over and over again, and she’s like, ‘I just told you that,’ ” Randle El said. “… I want to see my kids raised up. I want to see my grandkids.”

Randle El didn’t hesitate when asked if he regrets playing football.

“If I could go back, I wouldn’t,” he said. “I would play baseball. I got drafted by the Cubs in the 14th round … Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of football. But right now, I could still be playing baseball.”

Randle El retired early in 2010 and three years ago, he helped found a Christian high school in Ashburn, Va., called Virginia Academy.

When the school started, Randle El wanted it to have a football program. They funded it for two years before he decided it was too expensive.

Knowing what he does, Randle El can easily justify dropping the sport because of the liability alone.

What he’s about to say … he knows it sounds off the wall.

“Right now,” he said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if football isn’t around in 20, 25 years.”

NOTES

• The Patriots have placed linebacker Jerod Mayo on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, ending his season. Mayo had 49 tackles and one sack.

• The Eagles have hired former Lions coach Jim Schwartz to be their defensive coordinator.

Joe Lockhart, a former press secretary for President Clinton, will join the NFL as the league’s executive vice president of communications. He’ll report to NFL chief operating officer Tod Leiweke, former CEO of the Seahawks and Sounders.

• The Bucs announced Nate Kaczor joins the team as special-teams coordinator, Mark Duffner as linebackers coach, Jay Hayes as defensive line coach and Jon Hoke as defensive backs coach.

• Packers running backs coach Sam Gash and tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot were fired.

• The Steelers signed offensive lineman Chris Hubbard and fullback Roosevelt Nix to one-year contract extensions. Hubbard appeared in eight games. Nix caught two passes for 16 yards while serving mostly as a blocking back and on special teams.

• Former Ravens running back Ray Rice is serving as an assistant coach this week at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Rice has not played in the NFL since being suspended in 2014 for domestic violence.