To say Steelers WR Limas Sweed's career has been timultuous through two seasons is an understatement.
There was The Drop against Baltimore. Then The Other Drop against Cincinnati. Inconsistent playing time followed both incidents, which led to the climax of Sweed being placed on the IR with three games to play due to a "non-football illness."
Or "undisclosed personal issues," per the Post-Gazette. The Steelers have stuck with the illness side of the story, but reports generally seem to agree that his status for training camp is up in the air.
The question then becomes how much faith do the Steelers have in Sweed to recover from the illness/issue, and start moving toward the potential the team hoped he'd reach by now?
Free agent WR Arnaz Battle's visit to Pittsburgh on Monday is the start of the process needed to answer that question.
Battle doesn't flash huge stats. He had just five catches for 40 yards last season, and hasn't really been productive since his two-year stretch in 2006-07 where he locked up 109 catches for 1,286 yards. But he has the size to play the slot (6-foot-1, 207 pounds), which is a position at which the Steelers need to establish some depth.
Sweed was expected to fill that role to this point, but has been unable to do it. The ageless Hines Ward put in one of his best statistical seasons in 2009 (95 catches, 1,167 yards, six TDs), and the Steelers are clearly a passing team. The combination of Ward, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace and Heath Miller make their passing attack one of the most formidable in the league.
However, behind Ward sits practice squad hero Tyler Grisham, whose best attribute was supposed to be his hands. That was said before he dropped one of the two passes thrown at him last season. Grisham replaced Sweed in the short-term before the signing of Joey Galloway who didn't dress for either of the games he was on the roster for, and will not be resigned.
Battle is 30, so age won't be an issue in providing a longer term solution. He's almost the same size as Ward. While Battle doesn't have a reputation as the hardest run blocker at his position, as the fourth WR, it's rare he'll see many running plays anyway.
At a lower price tag, he seems like a reasonable enough solution. Is that what it's come to for Sweed? Size and speed that makes scouts drool and defensive coordinators sleepless, and a low price tag to boot, he looks like a long touchdown or third down conversion waiting to happen. Sweed taking a flanker spot on the field opposite Ward with Holmes and Wallace outside of them sounds lethal on paper. Production out of that sub package would open the game up so much more for the base package, particularly on first downs.
But we stratch our heads wondering how a second-round pick with so much potential now has a low-cost contingency plan in place. If Battle's 29 catches and zero touchdowns in his last 24 games is a better option that Sweed for whatever reason, it'll mark one of the more disappointing Steelers storylines in recent memory.