A new weekday, a new addition to our top ten draft 'successes' and 'busts' of the Kevin Colbert era. I missed a day last week, so let's begin the new week with our No. 6 'bust' before alternating between the two categories as we top down the top five of each.
Like the selection that preceded it, he No. 6 draft 'bust' also hails from the 2008 draft class -- wide receiver Limas Sweed. Taken in the second round out of the University of Texas (53rd overall), Sweed joined the Steelers with high expectations from the organization and its vast fanbase. Finally the team had invested in an early-round pick in a tall, athletic wide receiver who wasn't a project. So we thought.
Sweed's struggles as a rookie in '08 have been well documented. I'd prefer not to bring them up in much detail, as the young man is still a member of our beloved team. But as a cursory overview, let's just say Sweed was a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment once he joined the professional ranks.
I found it interesting when I learned that Sweed's tendency to put too much pressure on himself dates back to his time at UT. Against collegiate competition though, Sweed was able to outclass his competition physically. Much harder to do at the NFL level. Yet, part of what makes many of us in Steeler Nation still believe that he can amount to something in this league is the fact that Sweed's speed was responsible for him being so wide open on those few opportunities he failed to convert, most notably in the '08 playoffs against Baltimore.
There are some amongst us who might find it impossible to excuse Sweed laying on the field after that infamous drop as if he were injured. The Steelers had to burn a timeout just because the guy felt so ashamed and upset with himself to get up off the turf and hustle back to the sideline. Not good. Then again, not long thereafter, Sweed delivered a bone-crunching block on a hated Ravens defender, a play that signaled that Sweed can contribute in a big way for this team if he could only just get his feet underneath him and his mind right, so to speak.
Last year, Sweed was lost for the season with an Achilles injury before the regular season even commenced. That's too bad because he was having himself a nice training camp. Then again, it wasn't the first solid camp that he's had since being drafted. Achilles injuries are somewhat freakish occurrences. It's not really fair in other words to question a player's durability because he misses a season with one (see: Willie Colon).
But now entering the final year of his rookie contract, there's no more margin for error for Sweed. That kind of now-or-never pressure may be a recipe for disaster given how Sweed has handled things between the ears thus far in his NFL career. But you never know when the light may come on for someone his age. I've said it many times the past few years -- Sweed doesn't need to be 'the guy' in order to gain some much needed confidence; he first just needs to be a trustworthy complimentary asset at WR first. 2010 would have been a great year for him to do just that -- with Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Heath Miller and Antonio Brown/Emmanuel Sanders in the mix, he would have just had to fit in and make a handful of plays throughout the season. Could have been a nice stepping stone to bigger and better things.
If 2011 proves to be another disappointment for Sweed, well, then he might catapult up a few spots on this list into the top five. But for the time being, the guy still wears black and gold. And because of his skill set and differentiating physical attributes, he'll have every opportunity in the world to compete for a roster spot and playing time this coming season.
Go Limas! Go Steelers!
Kevin Colbert's Top 10 Draft 'Busts'
Kevin Colbert's Top 10 Draft 'Successes'
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