by Will Graves
LATROBE, Pa. (AP)—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. 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 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.”
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.