Limas Sweed said he tried to understand when he did not get to play much as the third receiver in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans. He said he tried to be more understanding when offensive coordinator Bruce Arians told him after the game that he did not mean to use rookie Mike Wallace as much as he did in that role.
But, after spending the entire preseason as the Steelers' No. 3 receiver, Sweed said he could not help but feel disappointed after getting on the field so infrequently against the Titans.
"I wanted to play," he said. "I put a lot of hard work in. But, being a team game and trying to be understanding, I have to go with it. And we got a win. That was the big thing."
It won't get any better tomorrow against the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field.
Sweed did not practice for the second day in a row yesterday because of a foot injury and will not play against the Bears, who could have as many as three new starters in their defense because of injuries and demotions.
That means Wallace, a third-round pick from Ole Miss who took nearly all the snaps as the third receiver in the 13-10 overtime victory against the Titans, will do so again against the Bears (0-1).
It also means veteran Shaun McDonald, who was deactivated against the Titans, will dress and be the fourth receiver in Chicago. McDonald, though, will play in some of the packages as the No. 3 receiver -- a role in which Sweed has been rotating with Wallace.
"It depends on the play-calling," Wallace said, referring to the surprising amount of playing time he received against Tennessee. "It's just what happened. We ran a lot of no-huddle stuff and the packages I was in. We had a groove on, so we didn't want to swap out too much."
The Steelers were hoping to use Sweed more against the Bears after all but ignoring him against the Titans.
That plan went awry when the No. 2 draft choice from Texas a year ago sprained his foot in practice Wednesday.
"There are going to be a lot of times when [Sweed] is in there and I'm not in there," Wallace said. "I don't care. I just want to win."
This won't be one of them.
Wallace caught three passes for 32 yards against the Titans, the biggest coming in overtime when he caught a 22-yarder on second-and-10 that set up Jeff Reed's winning field goal.
Wallace, the second-fastest receiver in the NFL draft who said he was clocked in college at 4.21 in the 40-yard dash, also could have had what the coaches thought was an easy touchdown on his first receiving attempt. But quarterback Ben Roethlisberger underthrew Wallace on the third play of the game after he got behind the safety.
It was a play similar to the one on which Santonio Holmes later caught a 34-yard touchdown.
"It was pretty much the same," Wallace said. "We both have to beat the safety."
Beating safeties isn't much of a problem for Wallace, who is the fastest receiver on the team. It's also one of the reasons he has moved up so quickly on the depth chart.
Typically, a rookie wide receiver in the NFL adapts slowly because he has to learn to read different coverages, causing him to play slower and run soft routes. But Wallace has been a quick study, so much so that Arians began using him two weeks ago at split end, or X receiver, so he can learn that position, too.
Until then, Wallace had primarily worked only at the flanker, or Z, position, in a three-wide receiver set. Now, when he is used in a two-receiver set, he can line as the split end, a position designed for more deep throws and big plays.
Either way, the Steelers want to take advantage of Wallace's speed. Coach Mike Tomlin calls it, "Taking the top off the coverage."
"A lot of the routes I've been playing, they are speed routes," Wallace said. "It just all depends on the play call. Sometimes, we have the same play call on both sides."
For now, Wallace is getting most of those plays.
And all Sweed can do is watch.
Gerry Dulac can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .