Free Agency has come to a close. The draft is behind us, and team practices have started up once again. In this series — because Mike loves to write in series — we’ll take a look at players who, in spite of playing important roles in 2007, will be looking over their shoulders as competition for their spots in the lineup heats up.
In two of the last three drafts, the Steelers have selected arguably the best wide receiver prospect: Santonio Holmes in 2006, and Limas Sweed just last month. Coupled with Hines Ward, Holmes has become one of the top downfield threats in the league, leading all receivers in yards per catch in 2007. Sweed promises to play a critical role as well, going up for jump balls and playing the physical, scrappy receiver inside the red zone. And, with two very capable — and enormous — tight ends, the Steelers have all the pieces in place for an outstanding passing game in 2008.
The only thing missing from that equation is Nate Washington. Of the wide receivers, he was third on the team in 2007 in both catches and yards. Teammates glow when they talk of his incredible jumping ability, and he has a tendency to make the ridiculously hard catches. So, why should he be looking over his shoulder?