With Nate Washington leaving the Steelers via free agency, it's no doubt that second-year WR Limas Sweed needs to elevate his play. Big Ben had a nice chemistry with Nate, and if the Steelers want to mimic last year's success, then we can't really afford to take a step back at any skill position.
Much will be made about Rashard Mendenhall coming back from injury, but Sweed's potential contributions are arguably more pivotal. Pittsburgh has shifted to an efficient passing game mentality, and Santonio and Hines are already world champions who have each altered the outcome of a Super Bowl game in their careers. And now it's Sweed's turn.
It sucks that whenever you mention Sweed's name, any cognizant Steelers fan will automatically start yapping about the dropped passes. I'm not absolving Sweed, as he clearly looked overwhelmed in his rookie year and made seemingly preventable mistakes, but that's the kind of thing that can haunt a young player. Sweed's the only one who can change his legacy, and the best way to start is with a strong second season.
He's a guy that can do it, too. A wrist injury is the only thing that kept him out of the first round of his draft class, and he was overshadowed by the current Steelers WRs and the drafting of Mendenhall.
So if I was to predict, I'd say that Sweed's going to emerge as a guy that obviously isn't the #1 guy in Pittsburgh, but will show up with big-time catches and a monster TD total. He'll have something like 30-35 catches, but 8 or 9 will be for TDs. Hell, I'll say 10 TDs, just to be that guy.
"Mark my words: By the 2011 season, Limas Sweed is not only going to the best WR on the Steelers—he is going to be in the top 10 in the league.
Once Big Ben has confidence in Sweed, Sweed will become Ben's favorite target. He has the size, speed, and hands (you'll see) that is going to make him elite.
By 2011, Ward will no longer be the receiver we all love, if he is even still playing, and Sweed will more than take his place."
That would be AWESOME if Sweed pans out like that! I'd be more than pleased if that ends up happening, but I'll settle for a great second season and take steps from there. And if I'm right, '09 is going to be just that season.