Sweed has grasp of offense
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer
LATROBE - Mention Limas Sweed's name to even a casual Steelers fan - if there is such an animal - and their immediate response will have something to do with dropped passes.
When you drop sure touchdown passes wide open behind the defense in back-to-back playoff games - including the AFC Championship - as Sweed did last season, that's bound to be the case.
But the 6-4, 220-pound Sweed is looking ahead at 2009, not back at 2008. Sweed feels he's ready to be a regular contributor to the Steelers offense.
"Last year I was totally confused," said Sweed as the Steelers continue their training camp here at Saint Vincent College. "I wasn't in and out of my breaks. I was thinking too much. It's like anything, if you second-guess yourself or you're not quite sure, you're not going to be as sharp. Now, I'm ready. I know what's going on. I know why I have to be at certain places."
One place Sweed would like to be is on the field on a regular basis. The Steelers wouldn't mind if their 2008 second-round draft pick made that transition as well.
Wide receiver Nate Washington, the team's No. 3 receiver the past two years, left as a free agent for Tennessee, leaving a big hole behind starters Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.
Sweed and veteran Shaun McDonald, signed as a free agent from Detroit, are battling to fill the spot. The two have gotten even more of a look the past few days as Ward has continued to sit out practice as he returns from an offseason shoulder surgery.
Though Sweed is off to a good start, it's just that, a good start.
"I will just continue to watch and let it reveal itself to me," said head coach Mike Tomlin of the battle for the third receiver job. "I tend to base my judgments over the long haul, looking for consistencies and things of that nature."
One thing in Sweed's favor this year is his overall understanding of the game and what's required of him.
Though he saw action in 11 regular season and all three postseason games - making a combined eight catches for 84 yards - he admits he was overthinking the game.
He doesn't feel he'll have that problem in 2009.
"(It's) just playing football, just understanding that this is the same game that I've been playing since the seventh grade," Sweed said. "That's what everybody always told me but I made it out to me more than what it was. As long as you keep the game in perspective, you'll be fine.
"It doesn't matter what people expect. It's all about me and what I can do. I know what I'm capable of doing and I'm not trying to live up to anybody's expectations. I've got to live up to my own expectations."
One of those expectations is catching the ball more consistently.
Of course the other side of the coin is that even not knowing what he was doing on the field, Sweed got open behind the defense to be in a position to drop those passes.
"It's all about how you look at it. The glass is either half empty or half full," Sweed said. "I don't look at the negative things. A drop is a drop. Everybody in this league drops balls. I don't know a receiver who has played the game who hasn't dropped the ball. So it was a drop. That was last year. Let's wait and see what happens this year."
Odds and end zones
In addition to Ward, cornerback Deshea Townsend (hamstring), safety Troy Polamalu (hamstring), guard Darnell Stapleton (knee), running back Willie Parker (shoulder) and defensive end Sonny Harris (groin) missed practice Tuesday. Stapleton's injury is the most serious and the team sent him for an MRI, though Tomlin said no results are yet available. ... Tight end Heath Miller (sports hernia surgery) and center Justin Hartwig (toe) continue to do position workouts and are close to returning. ... The Steelers will practice twice today, the second of which (3 p.m.) is open to the public.