Rookie receiver Sweed tries too hard to please
Thursday, August 21, 2008
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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There is little reason to be exuberant, even wildly optimistic, that rookie wide receiver Limas Sweed leads the Steelers with five receptions after two preseason games. Not yet, anyway. It means about as much as tight end Heath Miller not having a catch after two games.
What is more significant about Sweed, a No. 2 draft choice from Texas, is that he already has dropped a couple passes and is averaging a mere 6.4 yards per catch -- numbers that pale to the gaudy statistics he compiled in college.
It is significant because everybody thinks the 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver is trying too hard to make an impression. His teammates think that, the coaches think that, even Sweed thinks that.
"He's trying to do the 'wow' every play," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "Just give me 6 yards and catch it. Make the plays that are there, not the wow-play every time."
"I think he's pressing so hard to impress everybody," said receiver Hines Ward. "When you start pressing, you start making more mistakes, the mistakes that are routine. Then they end up becoming a problem."
"I wouldn't say impress everybody," Sweed said. "I'm not in the business of impressing people. I'm just a person who's going to keep striving till I get it right. I'm going to be extra hard on myself."
Sweed certainly has the size, speed and ability to be impressive. After all, he caught 20 career touchdowns with the Longhorns, second most in school history behind Roy Williams. That's one of the reasons the Steelers couldn't pass him up with the 53rd overall pick in the NFL draft, even though wide receiver wasn't a position of need.
But his teammates believe he is trying too hard because he wants to make an immediate impact, something Ward, an 11-year veteran and a four-time Pro Bowler, said is difficult to do anymore in the NFL.
"The Randy Moss days are over," Ward said. "No one is coming in and scoring 18 touchdowns. We don't have the offense to do that, anyway. A lot of guys in college, they haven't seen the complex coverages they see in this league.
"You can be a great talent in college, but this game is a whole different aspect. There are linebackers covering you, defensive ends dropping out, safeties constantly rolling. You got to have that intelligence to be able to learn and do less thinking as you're route-running."
Sweed, of course, doesn't have to be an immediate contributor, nor is he expected to be right away. He will begin the season as the No. 4 receiver, behind Ward, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington.
But he will be the backup to Holmes at split end -- or X receiver -- a big-play position that features more deep routes. Sweed did not finish practice yesterday because of a problem with his knee, but coach Mike Tomlin said he is fine and will practice today.
"He has a lot of pride and he puts too much pressure on himself," Arians said. "If he learns to relax and just play ... he knows the play, but he talks himself out of it, so there's always doubt. When he knows it, he plays real fast and you see the skill. When he's not sure, he looks like a rookie."
That's why Holmes, who was a No. 1 pick, is trying not to overload Sweed with even more advice.
Holmes was the first receiver drafted in 2006 and got off to a modest start as a rookie, catching 16 passes for 265 yards with no touchdowns in his first seven games. Since then, he has 85 catches, 10 touchdowns and averages 17.7 yards per catch in 25 games.
"I try to stay away from prepping him so much," Holmes said. "You got to learn a lot on the fly. The more things he goes through, the more he's starting to open up now and come talk to me about different things he's seeing and how he's adjusting."
Ward said Sweed is his own worst critic. The best one-word advice he can offer: Relax.
"He gets so down that he ends up frustrating himself," Ward said. "It's understandable. We've all been through it."
First published on August 21, 2008 at 12:00 am