Cedrick Wilson feels ignored and he's not happy about it.
The Steelers receiver complained yesterday that his quarterbacks don't throw the ball his way enough in practice or games, even when he's wide open.
"I come out here and work hard just like everybody else. I deserve a couple of passes," an angry Wilson said shortly after morning practice ended on a pass play that provoked an outburst by him.
Backup Charlie Batch threw a pass toward an underneath receiver that was intercepted by cornerback Jovon Johnson. Wilson, wide open deep, cursed loudly in the end zone about it and again during an interview.
"Yeah," he said, "then you all talk about how I ain't [expletive] and I never get the [expletive] football."
He later explained that, for whatever reason, Steelers quarterbacks largely ignore him in the passing game.
"I can't help if the quarterback doesn't throw me the ball," said Wilson, the starting split end last season and still running with the first team. "I'm running my routes, I'm doing the right things. You can't help if the quarterback doesn't throw you the ball."
Hall of Famers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann staged an intense competition to attract more balls their way, even schmoozing quarterback Terry Bradshaw. Asked if he ever talked to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger about it, Wilson said, "I try."
"He can just do his thing," Wilson said. "As long as we're successful, I'm fine."
Clearly, though, he is not. Asked if he were ignored often when open, Wilson said: "You tell me. You watch the games. Don't you watch the games?"
Wilson said he has no idea why.
"I don't know. I don't know. I just have to work, I guess."
Bruce Arians, the new offensive coordinator, said a receiver wanting the ball more is not a bad thing.
"They all want the ball more," Arians said. "There are not enough footballs to go around."
Wilson was third on the team with 37 receptions and fourth with 504 yards last season, his first as a starter since the Steelers signed him as an unrestricted free agent in 2005 to help replace Plaxico Burress. He scored one touchdown.
He was the starting split end until a sprained ankle Dec. 3 against Tampa Bay. Rookie Santonio Holmes, who had rotated every other series with Wilson for much of the season, took over from there.
Holmes' 49 receptions for 824 yards were second on the team last season and led all AFC rookies. Holmes, a first-round draft choice, is listed as the starter on the depth chart with Wilson behind him, but Wilson also questions that. Holmes missed the first four days of practice because of a minor surgical procedure and has remained behind Wilson since his return Sunday.
"I think everybody's competing for a job," Wilson said. "I don't think anything's locked up. We have a new coach; he doesn't know anybody. That's a good thing for a lot of guys.
"We'll see how it works out. I'm in front of him right now. [Last season], I got hurt for four games so I finished behind him."
Told it was assumed by many that Holmes would be the starter, including the official depth chart, Wilson said that was probably natural.
"You know what? He's a first-round pick, he's young. That's obvious. But at the same time, you still have to come out to the field and play.
"I didn't do anything last year to have my job taken away from me but get hurt. You shouldn't lose your job on account that you got hurt, know what I mean? Plus, you only lose your job on account you got hurt with a first-round pick behind you. At the same time, I caught all the balls that were thrown to me last year."
Wilson was fourth on the team with 26 receptions for 451 yards in 2005 when he played behind starting split end Antwaan Randle El but rotated series with him.
Arians re-worked the playbook this year to include more use of three and four wide receivers on first down, more use of three tight ends and even more use of Willie Parker as a third-down back.
Are there enough footballs to go around?
"I don't know, you know? I hope there are," Wilson said. "I just have to focus on the balls I get, I guess, because there ain't a lot of them, I'll tell you that much."