The Pittsburgh Steelers' receiving corps has a new look this year. The group was unveiled yesterday at the first day of this weekend's minicamp. Find out who's looking good out of the gate.
With Hines Ward sidelined by recent knee surgery, the Steelers showcased a receiving corps that’s either from the future or Redwood National Park.
Yes, the Steelers’ receivers are that big.
“Coach (Mike) Tomlin was saying we’ve got a lot of power forwards around here,” said Ward. “But you still need some point guards out on the field, on the court, to run things, so we’ll see. Hopefully they go out and help contribute to the team.”
Fans may have expected Ward to become vocal over the new breed of receiver being brought in to connect with the 6-foot-5 quarterback, but Ward was vocal in another way: He was a second coach on the sideline, particularly with rookie Limas Sweed.
“If the organization feels this is a player who can help us win the championship, then of course I’m going to welcome them because I want to win another championship,” Ward said.
Sweed, the Steelers’ second-round draft pick, was just one of the giants running patterns for Ben Roethlisberger at the start of minicamp Friday. Counting tight ends, the Steelers have seven receivers taller than 6-4½. That’s the size Sweed brings to the team and he only ranks as the team’s seventh-tallest receiver.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Sweed said. “These guys are pretty big.”
Heath Miller who at 6-5 is tied for No. 5 on the list, wonders if Roethlisberger will be able to find him anymore.
“I used to be the tallest guy in the room,” Miller said. “Even weight-wise, I’m small. I put on a couple of pounds and stepped on a scale feeling good about myself, and then the other guys got on behind me and made me look small. I guess I’m the runt of the room.”
Miller weighed in at 254 pounds, only four pounds more than 6-5, 250-pound Jon Dekker. You may remember Dekker as that skinny kid from Princeton.
While Dekker’s looking like a real tight end these days, the other tight ends are looking like NBA power forwards. Matt Spaeth checked into his second season at 6-7, 270 pounds and the re-signed Cody Boyd is 6-8, 264 pounds. And the wideouts appear to be interchangeable with the gigantic tight ends.
Sweed, ticketed to become Roethlisberger’s “big receiver,” must first find his way past a couple of other giants: Former MSU basketball player Matt Trannon and undrafted free agent Micah Rucker are both 6-6. Last year’s big guy, 6-3 Dallas Baker, isn’t even in the top seven anymore.
“You can’t really pay attention to that,” Baker said. “It’s football, not basketball. It reminds of Jacksonville’s receivers right now.”
Baker, of course, isn’t lost behind the other big men. He has a year under his belt and is feeling confident.
“I’m starting to understand it a little bit better” he said. “I wouldn’t say I completely understand, but I think I understand a little bit better.”
On the field, the young giants drew mixed reviews. Sweed dropped a few balls the first practice but showed plenty of deep speed and tracking skills. Rucker doesn’t excite the personnel people as much as his size and 4.4 40 time should. Trannon looks great in shorts, but contact has been his undoing on the football field the last few years.
Of course with Ward out, Santonio Holmes -- all 5-11 (listed) of him -- was the best receiver on the field. Did he notice all the new Redwoods out there?
“Yeah,” he said, “but they’ve got to be athletes, too. Just because they’re big and tall, and just because people are starting to pay attention that we’ve got three or four guys that are tall, they’ve still got to prove themselves. Being tall isn’t going to mean you’ll be on the field here.” Probably not, but the intention of the Steelers’ personnel department – that of finding Roethlisberger some big receivers -- is unmistakable.
By Jim Wexell
Posted May 2, 2008