WR Limas Sweed eyeing breakthrough with Steelers

Limas Sweed tried not to pay attention when the Pittsburgh

Steelers unsuccessfully courted Plaxico Burress a week ago.

Sure, Sweed heard all the chatter about how the Steelers needed

a big wide receiver to complement the swift if undersized quartet

of Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio

Brown.

The fourth-year pro nods his head when asked if there was a part

of him that wanted to raise his hand and say, ”remember me? I’m

6-foot-4. I can run. I can catch. I can play.”

Yet he understands why he’s become a forgotten man at best and a

draft bust at worst. Struggle as the former Texas star has since

being taken in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft and it’s hard

to avoid labels such as ”injury-prone” and ”underachiever.”

He has all of seven receptions in three years, only one since

Thanksgiving 2008. He was put on injured reserve in 2009 after

being diagnosed with depression and missed all of last season when

he tore the Achilles tendon in his left leg in minicamp.

Was it tough? Of course. Has he given any real indication during

his underwhelming career that he can be an impact player? Not

really. Yet he remains upbeat, a sign the emotional distress he

went through two years ago is behind him.

Still, he’s only too happy to remind critics he’s 26, not 46.

There’s still time to turn things around.

”I’m ready to show them I’m that guy,” Sweed said. ”I’m that

big guy and fill in the way they want me to fill in.”

Pittsburgh could certainly use a receiver with Sweed’s skill

set, particularly the skill that comes with being 6-4 and having a

37-inch vertical leap. Wallace, Ward and company can do fast. They

can’t do big. Sweed can, though he knows he’ll have to do it now if

he wants the breakthrough to happen while he’s wearing

black-and-gold.

”I have a chip on my shoulder,” he said. ”I feel like I have

something to prove to the coaches and to myself and I’m ready to be

here and I’m ready to play. It’s just a matter of time and a matter

of it showing.”

Sweed certainly casts an imposing figure. Standing on the

practice field the same weekend Burress was visiting camp looking

for a deal, a couple of fans saw the tall guy wearing the No. 80

jersey and shouted ”Plaxico!” ”Plaxico!”

Never mind that it wasn’t Burress but Sweed, who just laughed

when asked about it.

”I didn’t hear them,” Sweed said.

Then again, there are worse receivers to be compared to, and

Sweed has shown brief flashes of turning the corner during the

opening 10 days of camp. Sweed outjumped two members of the

Pittsburgh secondary for a deep ball during a seven-on-seven drill

last weekend only to grab his left hamstring has he sprinted toward

the end zone.

He sat out a couple of days before returning to the field only

to head back to the trainer’s room with a shoulder sprain. Asked

about Sweed’s progress, coach Mike Tomlin says, ”I’m here to talk

about the guys that are working, not those that aren’t.”

That’s just the way Tomlin is. And besides, the first week of

camp has shown that Sweed isn’t the only potential big target in

camp.

Like Sweed, former West Virginia wide receiver Wes Lyons is long

and lean. Unlike Sweed, the 6-8 Lyons isn’t hindered by outlandish

expectations. He went undrafted in 2010 and didn’t make it out of

training with the New York Jets last summer

While Lyons doesn’t have blazing speed he’s caught just about

everything that’s come his way while working with the reserves.

”I’m just trying to do whatever they ask,” Lyons said. ”It’s

pretty much meetings and lots of film work trying to catch

up.”

He and Sweed better hurry. There are currently 11 receivers in

camp, with spots guaranteed to Ward, Wallace, Sanders and Brown.

Veteran Arnaz Battle is likely to secure a roster spot because of

his contributions on special teams.

That leaves Sweed, Lyons and practice squad leftover Tyler

Grisham as the top candidates to grab a slot at the bottom of the

depth chart.

Sweed says he’s fully healed from the Achilles injury and the

hamstring issue is just one of those things that pops up in camp.

He’s spent too much time away from the game to let a cramp stop

him.

”The (NFL) lockout, it felt like a lifetime,” he said. ”Now

that it’s over with and I’m back out here running with the team

it’s just a great feeling.”

One he hopes doesn’t fade too quickly.