It’s nearly draft time, which means it’s currently open season for superlatives and thermonuclear hot takes. My hottest pre-draft take—an admittedly brazen and sanguine notion that I’m clinging to for dear life—is that Louisville’s Lamar Jackson will be a franchise quarterback, and that, for this reason, the Steelers should absolutely draft him in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. But, for now, that’s neither here nor there; Jackson could emerge as a bust, or a career backup, or a just okay starter, and this spicy draft take will look ridiculous in retrospect. In that spirit, I’m really, legitimately curious to hear some of your worst Steelers takes. Please leave them in the comments. This is a safe space, I promise. To prove this, here is a random collection of some of my worst Steelers takes (these are all things that I actually said and/or wrote):
-If the Steelers needed a running back, they should’ve taken Eddie Lacy instead of Le’Veon Bell (said during the 2013 NFL Draft, moments after the Steelers announced Bell as their second round pick).
-Ryan Shazier is a terrible pick (texted to a good friend—a rabid Ohio State fan—the night of the 2014 NFL Draft).
-As the obvious heir apparent to Lamarr Woodley and James Harrison, Jarvis Jones is going to get 15 sacks this season (said to person next to me at Heinz Field during Pittsburgh’s Week 1 game against Cleveland in 2014).
-Cortez Allen has the makings of a shutdown corner (said shortly after Allen inked a five-year contract extension in 2014). (2014 was apparently a rough year for bad takes.)
-If keeping Antonio Brown means losing Mike Wallace, the Steelers should part ways with Brown (said in the summer of 2012, and it remains my single worst sports take of all time).
-Ten years from now, we’re going to say Limas Sweed was the most productive and most talented wide receiver in the 2008 NFL Draft class (this was not said by me, but by ESPN’s resident draft wizard Todd McShay).
Let’s actually grab that last one, because Sweed represents something of a persona non grata in Pittsburgh’s history books, a rare miss in Kevin Colbert’s impressive portfolio of successful draft picks. Before this—and long before his name became a verb to be evoked following some sort of calamitous on-field mishap from a butter-fingered pass catcher—Sweed was arguably the most highly-acclaimed receiving prospect in a draft that featured Jordy Nelson, Desean Jackson, and Pierre Garcon. Here is Sweed, then a sophomore, keeping the University of Texas in the National Title hunt with a cold-blooded, game-winning, grab-your-nuts-and-flex touchdown against Ohio State:
(Possibly NSFW, as I selected the version with the Rick Ross overlay, so maybe play this with the volume off if you aren’t interested in hearing the Hustin’ remix featuring Young Jeezy and Jay-Z—though I have no clue why you wouldn’t be.)
The above play in particular is kind of emblematic of why Sweed was so highly regarded by scouting departments in the first place. He’s obviously an enormous red-zone body (he was 6-foot-4, 215 pounds), but he’s also nimble enough to run a precise, crafty route and savvy enough to shield the defenders in a way that doesn’t tangibly increase the difficulty of the catch. After guiding the Longhorns to a National Championship in 2005, Sweed entered his junior season as a Biletnikoff candidate. Though he failed to amass the kinds of gaudy statistics one can expect from a top-tier Big 12 receiver, Sweed did manage to score 12 touchdowns and, critically, average over 17 yards per reception. The fact that Sweed limped his way through an injury-plagued senior campaign did little to abate his draftworthiness—his stock tumbled, certainly, but plenty of NFL coaches were, are, and will continue to be willing to pull the trigger on a lengthy, athletic receiver who is equal parts raw and refined, Mike Tomlin chief among them, who used the 53rd pick in the 2008 iteration of the draft to bring Sweed to Pittsburgh.
I was still pretty young in 2008, so it’s difficult for me to say whether the Steelers had the long game in mind when they drafted Sweed. It sure seems that way in retrospect, as exemplified by the fact that the Sweed’s rookie season was spent buried beneath Pittsburgh’s productive triumvirate of receivers (Hines Ward, Nate Washington, and Santanio Holmes), duo of beefy tight ends (Matt Spaeth and Health Miller), and resident backfield pass catcher Mewelde Moore on the depth chart. He had an opportunity to redeem himself in the 2008-09 postseason, but infamously dropped a wide-open 50-yard touchdown against Baltimore in the AFC Championship Game. (While this is the play that defined Sweed’s Steelers tenure, it should be noted that later in this game, Sweed sent an unsuspecting Corey Ivy back to the mesozoic era with an organ-liquifying (and then-legal!) blind-side block).
(As an aside to this aside, the Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl, so Sweed’s drop had literally no impact on the outcome of the game).
Though Sweed was expected to assume a bigger role in 2009, he was ultimately supplanted by rookie receiver Mike Wallace on the depth chart, and in 2010 Sweed blew out his Achilles tendon during minicamp, an injury from which he never fully recovered. He was released by the Steelers without ceremony shortly after the 2011 regular season began, and while Sweed did manage to secure tryouts with a handful of other NFL teams, he never latched on elsewhere. For all intents and purposes, Sweed’s final NFL game occurred on September 27, 2009. In that game, a 23-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Sweed was targeted twice, catching one pass for five yards and, fittingly, dropping a sure touchdown in the third quarter.
Here we are, almost exactly 10 years after McShay delivered what was perhaps the most painfully gelid take of his praiseworthy scouting career. Sweed is out of football, coaching football at some middle school in Texas as of four years ago, and is debatably the worst receiver in a class that featured such esteemed ballers as Chaz Schilens, Brett Swain, and Arman Shields. So I ask again: what is your worst Steelers take?