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

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

With so many options in and around the city, every couple can find the special space that feels just right — whether they’re looking for nature, rustic charm, fairytale romance, stained-glass beauty, treasured religious ritual or classic tradition.
Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Delve below the surface to explore the underground areas that serve as vital pathways to our region.
Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Chefs who grew up in Pittsburgh are shaping the culinary scene in other cities across the country — and gaining national recognition in the process.
Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

The meat-centric restaurant in the Strip District is helping to redefine Pittsburgh's dining expectations.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

From a hotel “Love Lockdown,” to a museum breakfast in bed, to a rooftop singles event - there's plenty to eat, drink at do in Pittsburgh on this weekend for love.
Beer News: East End Brewing Moving to Bigger Space in Strip District

Beer News: East End Brewing Moving to Bigger Space in Strip District

The new space, called the East End Brewery Taproom, will offer lunch and dinner service, expanded hours and a place for customers to sit and enjoy a pint of beer from one of the brewery’s 12 taps.
See How Pittsburghers Used to Get Around

See How Pittsburghers Used to Get Around

This rare video gives you a passenger's perspective of street car trolley travel in the 1960s.
Steelers' DeAngelo Williams Scores as Daughters' Hair Stylist

Steelers' DeAngelo Williams Scores as Daughters' Hair Stylist

In a pair of TV ads, watch the Steelers' running back tackle styling the hair of his two adorable daughters.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, 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

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

With so many options in and around the city, every couple can find the special space that feels just right — whether they’re looking for nature, rustic charm, fairytale romance, stained-glass beauty, treasured religious ritual or classic tradition.
Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Delve below the surface to explore the underground areas that serve as vital pathways to our region.
Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Chefs who grew up in Pittsburgh are shaping the culinary scene in other cities across the country — and gaining national recognition in the process.
Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

The meat-centric restaurant in the Strip District is helping to redefine Pittsburgh's dining expectations.
Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

In Lawrenceville, a love for letterpress leads to a business whose greeting cards reach audiences across the country.
Pittsburgh's Third Renaissance and Complaints from 2007

Pittsburgh's Third Renaissance and Complaints from 2007

This third Renaissance has allowed us to be spectators as Pittsburgh changed from a city suffering the damages wrought by the collapse of its steel industry to a vibrant, active place known for its academic, medical and technology sectors.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

From a hotel “Love Lockdown,” to a museum breakfast in bed, to a rooftop singles event - there's plenty to eat, drink at do in Pittsburgh on this weekend for love.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

City leaders considered many options for Pittsburgh's confluence including something that looked like it was designed by the Jetsons, or an absolutely bonkers, batpoop insane idea by the one and only Frank Lloyd Wright.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Wigle Whiskey Ripe for Expansion with Threadbare

Wigle Whiskey Ripe for Expansion with Threadbare

The Strip District distillers will launch a hard cider business this fall.

Comments


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

7 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


Head to 'Quick and Shameless' For an Unpredictable (and Essential) Night of Pittsburgh Comedy

Head to 'Quick and Shameless' For an Unpredictable (and Essential) Night of Pittsburgh Comedy

The LGBTQ-friendly variety show offers one of the city's most unusual (and often unforgettable) lineups of comedic talent.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Denver's upset win over Carolina -- predicted by hardly anyone (including yours truly) -- should be interpreted as good news for Steelers' fans.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Let your heart do the talking with these fun sweaters from Rosewood Boutique.

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.
George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

Our reviews of "Hail, Caesar!," "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "The Choice."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Love and Lace: Six Stand-Out Dresses

Love and Lace: Six Stand-Out Dresses

To coincide with the launch of our Spring 2016 Weddings magazine, we’ve created a Week of Wedded Bliss — seven stories to introduce you to the couples featured in our Real Pittsburgh Weddings. On day two, we fall head over heels in love with these six dresses.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Pillow Talk: Pittsburgh's Skyline Inspires New Design Line

Pillow Talk: Pittsburgh's Skyline Inspires New Design Line

Check out the new pillow collection from local interior designer Zach Mitchell. Plus, get the scoop on The Pittsburgh Christmas Carol Tour.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

The event is for high school students who are interested in criminal justice, law enforcement and forensic science.

Comments