Seventh Heaven

To compete for a Seventh Super Bowl win, the Steelers have signed four key players who may help clinch Super Bowl XLIV.



When a team wins the Super Bowl and loses only a handful of contributors from its roster in the offseason, it's hard to find room for improvement. But as just about every team this side of New England has proved over the last 10 years, repeating as Super Bowl champions is no easy task. If the Steelers are to compete for that "Seventh Heaven," here a few players who will be key to that run:

Limas Sweed

Normally, losing an undrafted wide receiver from Tiffin University is no cause for concern, but when that guy's replacement is known mostly for dropping a sure touchdown in the playoffs, it becomes one. When the Tennessee Titans showed Nate Washington the money, he rightly nodded his head in approval. Ironically, Limas Sweed was with Washington at that very moment.

"I was with Nate when he got the call from Tennessee at Casey Hampton's fundraiser in Galveston [Texas]," Sweed says. "He talked about it and I just said, 'You have to do what you have to do.' And now there's an opening, so I have to do what I have to do."

What he "has to do" is become the productive chain-mover the Pittsburgh Steelers hoped he would be when they drafted him 53rd overall in 2008. On paper, he should be the perfect complement to the Steelers' top two wide receivers: Hines Ward is the ultimate possession receiver; Santonio Holmes is your speedy game changer, while Sweed brings the size and speed combination to go over the top. But there is one thing Ward and Holmes both have in abundance that Sweed seemingly does not: Swagger.

Despite being the top wide receiver on one of the top college teams in the country at Texas, Sweed seemed uncomfortable with the NFL game as a rookie. But as others before him have shown (see Plaxico Burress' "spike" as a rookie), many players develop by leaps and bounds in their second season. For Sweed, just the added responsibilities on the practice field during the offseason have already helped his confidence.

"I'm one of those people where I'm a perfectionist. I like to know what's going on, and if I don't know what's going on 100 percent, it frustrates me," Sweed says. "All I can do is keep getting with Ben, keep getting with Hines and just keep learning. The more and more reps I get and the more we go over everything, the better I feel."

Rashard Mendenhall

Unlike the wide-receiver position, the Steelers did not lose any significant production at running back over the spring and summer. Willie Parker is back as the clear-cut starter, and after filling in nicely when Parker went down for a stretch last year, Mewelde Moore is the likely candidate to be their third-down back. But the difference-maker in their stable of backs could be the guy who played the least last year - Rashard Mendenhall.

At this point last year, there was talk that Mendenhall could push Parker for the starting tailback role. But during training camp, he quickly became known more for his buttery fingers than for the breakaway runs he was famous for in college. This prompted Hines Ward to make him carry a football around with him at all times during the preseason (while offering $100 of Mendenhall's own money to any player who could pry it away from him. Let's just say he lost a few Benjamins.).

Following an up and down preseason, Mendenhall finally got his chance to shine in Week 4 after Willie Parker was injured. But as quickly as that door opened, it slammed shut - in the form of a Ray Lewis hit that broke his collarbone. He was then forced to watch while his teammates went on to make NFL history.

"It was tough...but at least I got to experience everything off the field about being in the NFL," Mendenhall says. "To see how Willie and Mewelde work during practice...and to take care of everything off the field like my house, now I should be ready to come back and just worry about football."

With his shoulder fully healed, Mendenhall could actually be a "bonus" draft pick on the offensive side of the ball.

"I see this year as a brand-new start," he says. "I want to get out on the practice field and start taking handoffs so I can make myself as good as I can be."

William Gay

The Steelers have not unearthed many "second-day gems" in the draft over the past few years, but one of them is this cocky cornerback from Louisville. And "cocky" is just the attitude a Steelers cornerback needs, especially when he might be called upon to start when the season opens Sept. 10.

"As a corner, you just gotta have that swagger," Gay says. "You're left out there on that island. People always think it's your fault if somebody scores, so you have to walk around with a swagger like 'I can't be stopped and I can check anybody.'"

Even if "Big Play Willie Gay" is not the opening-night starter, he is sure to see a lot of action as the team's top nickel back. And with Deshea Townsend not getting any younger, Gay could be playing himself into a long-term role with the team, which could translate into a long-term contract.

"All of that [contract] is down the road. Right now, it's Game One that I'm focused on. I'm just trying to get better at my craft and trying to be a top-notch cornerback."

Lawrence Timmons

Now that Larry Foote is back in his hometown of Detroit, the Steelers' version of Foote is primed and ready to assume a starting role. Since Timmons normally played as a "hand-down" defensive end in college, it was assumed he would make the transition to outside linebacker.

But because of his sideline-to-sideline speed (and possibly due to how quickly LaMarr Woodley assumed a starting role opposite James Harrison), "LT" will take Foote's place alongside James Farrior in the middle of the Steelers' vaunted 3-4.

"My thing has always been trying to be as versatile as possible," Timmons says. "The more versatile people always stay around longer, so I'm just trying to be as useful to the defense as possible."

While Timmons does not provide Foote's veteran presence, he brings much more athleticism to the table, which will allow "Mad Scientist"/defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to add yet another "Bunson Burner" to his laboratory.

In his limited time on the field over his first two years, Timmons flashed signs of greatness both as Foote's replacement and on special teams. Don't be surprised if he has the kind of breakout year in 2009 that James Harrison had in 2007.

Craig McConnell is a born-and-bred Pittsburgher. He is a coordinating producer at FSN, where he's worked since 2001. Before joining FSN, Craig worked as a videographer at WSYX-TV in Columbus and WTOV-TV in Steubenville. He lives in Hampton with his wife, Jill, and their two kids, Derek and Leah.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

This month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind.
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space for more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

New Contract for PSO is a No Go

New Contract for PSO is a No Go

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians vote to go on strike.
Strip District's Savoy Seeks to Refresh and Renew

Strip District's Savoy Seeks to Refresh and Renew

The restaurant debuts a new lounge and has plans for refocused menu and more.
Pittburgh’s Daya Dropping New Album, Headline Tour

Pittburgh’s Daya Dropping New Album, Headline Tour

The teen singing sensation from Mt. Lebanon’s tour concludes in Pittsburgh.
See it Now: Trailer for Filmed-in-Pittsburgh “Fences”

See it Now: Trailer for Filmed-in-Pittsburgh “Fences”

Directed and starring Denzel Washington, the first big screen treatment of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play arrives in theaters on Christmas Day.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

This month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind.
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space for more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

The Strip District eatery overcomes tumult and once again is one of Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants.
Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

The things that are best about us? They’re not things. They’re ways.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


New Contract for PSO is a No Go

New Contract for PSO is a No Go

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians vote to go on strike.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
e2 to Close in Highland Park

e2 to Close in Highland Park

Chef/owner Kate Romane will move on to a new project.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


Halloween Hotlist: 10 Events That Prove Scaring is Caring

Halloween Hotlist: 10 Events That Prove Scaring is Caring

Pittsburgh is a wicked destination for spooky shenanigans. Here’s a sampling of what’s to come.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates’ Ship Sunk But Salvageable

Pirates’ Ship Sunk But Salvageable

Of all that conspired to derail the Pirates after three consecutive trips to the playoffs, the unanticipated implosions of Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano proved, in retrospect, to be more of a deal-breaker than anything else.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Green Chic: The Boxcar Planter Set

Green Chic: The Boxcar Planter Set

The geometric set is available through the hip Ace Hotel shop.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Surprise: Deepwater Horizon is Quite Good

Surprise: Deepwater Horizon is Quite Good

Reviews of "Deepwater Horizon" and "Queen of Katwe," along with local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

This Pittsburgh couple wanted their guests to be just as content as they were at their wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Make Your Design Work for You: Mecox Opens In Pittsburgh

Make Your Design Work for You: Mecox Opens In Pittsburgh

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Mecox will be opening its eighth location, but its first in Pittsburgh, in Shadyside.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education

Thiel College to Break Ground on New Science Facility

The project will cost $4.5 million and will connect two previously existing structures.

Comments