Sweed not lacking motivation


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Much will motivate Steelers rookie wide receiver Limas Sweed at Super Bowl XLIII. The chance to win a world championship and a prized ring. The chance to show people again that he's not a bum after that ridiculous dropped pass Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens and a season of next-to-nothing production. And, most important, the chance to convince coach Mike Tomlin that he deserves a roster spot next season, a spot that seems anything but guaranteed despite the fact he's a No. 2 draft choice and a big-money guy.

But getting to the White House to meet the president? That isn't high on Sweed's motivational list.

Been there, done that.

"We went after we won the national championship at Texas [in 2005]," Sweed said this week.

President George Bush -- once the governor of Texas and a huge Longhorns fan -- welcomed the team a few weeks after it beat Southern California in the Rose Bowl.

"I started to introduce myself when I shook his hand and he said, 'You don't have to tell me who you are. I know you.' " Sweed said, obviously pleased with the memory.

Is it just me or does everyone seem to know Sweed's name these days? I'm guessing even the new president has heard of him. You might have read on these pages that Barack Obama is a Steelers fan. How could he not know Sweed after that drop against the Ravens?

Steelers fans never would have forgiven the kid if the team had lost the AFC championship game. Many will hold their breath if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws the ball to him in the Super Bowl. Sweed will have to play a lot as the third receiver against the Arizona Cardinals if Hines Ward's right knee doesn't hold up.

"I'll be ready, definitely," Sweed said.

That makes one of us who is confident.

It's hard to feel good about Sweed playing a big part in the big game, although -- give him credit -- he showed something by bouncing back against the Ravens after the drop that would have given the Steelers a 20-7 lead late in the second quarter. Not immediately, of course. Unconscionably, he felt sorry for himself and stayed down on the grass, as if hurt, costing the team a timeout it desperately needed when it didn't have time to kick a field goal at the end of the half. But, a few plays later, he drilled cornerback Corey Ivy with a vicious block that earned a wink and a thumbs up from noted blocking monster Ward, who had to sit out the second half after his knee was sprained.

"Guys saw that and told me, 'Man, you must have really been ticked [after the drop],' " Sweed said.

Ticked probably isn't the right word.

"I felt like I let the team down," Sweed said. "You see guys everywhere on this team pulling their weight. I like to put my hand in the pile, too. That's what coach Tomlin always says, 'Put your hand in the pile. Do your part.' "

Sweed did again early in the fourth quarter, catching a 14-yard pass on third-and-8 from the Steelers' 14. The real surprise wasn't that he hung on to the ball despite a lick from cornerback Frank Walker. It was that Roethlisberger had enough faith to throw to him in another big spot.

"I knew Ben would. He told me right away, 'I'm coming right back to you,' " Sweed said.

"All the guys were supportive. Hines told me, 'I've dropped balls, too. What's important is how you respond. Get past it. Catch the next ball.' "

Tomlin also had a brief message.

" 'Just play, son. Just play,' " Sweed recalled.

Sound advice.

Sweed would be wise to follow up on it.

He has a lot at stake in the Super Bowl, maybe more than he realizes.

There's no doubt Sweed's draft status and four-year, $3.3 million contract -- including a $1.56 million signing bonus -- bought him a pass this season. It certainly wasn't his performance. He was inactive for the first four games and didn't play in the fifth, then had a total of six catches for 64 yards in the final 11 games.

One reason was a lack of snaps. "Man, this is such a stacked team," Sweed said. "I had no idea when I was drafted that it was this stacked."

But a bigger reason is Sweed did little with his opportunities. Even in practice, he dropped far too many balls.

That's why the Super Bowl is so important to Sweed, not to mention the exhibition season next summer. Tomlin and the Steelers won't be patient with him forever. The organization has shown on occasion that it's willing to cut a big-ticket player. Remember 1991 No. 1 draft choice Huey Richardson, who was released before the '92 season?

The Steelers have had mixed success with second-rounders in the past 20 years. Right now, it's hard to think of Sweed in the same company with LaMarr Woodley, Marvel Smith, Levon Kirkland and Dermontti Dawson. It's much easier to see him with Alonzo Jackson, Scott Shields, Jeremy Staat and Kenny Davidson.

Sweed begged to differ.

"I can help this team, without a doubt. It's just a matter of time. It's a matter of getting reps and rolling with it ...

"[The Baltimore game] was big for me. I finally got some quality minutes. That's going to make me come back and work harder for the next game. It's going to make me work harder for next season.

"I'm going to be a better player."

Or gone.


Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com .


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