When Hines Ward went down Sunday with a knee injury in the first quarter of the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens, rookie wide receiver Limas Sweed was thrust into action. Sweed had mainly been used by the Steelers this season in four wide receiver sets and special teams for the most part because of his inability to show the coaching staff he could handle a larger role. With less than a minute remaining in the first half and the Steelers leading 13-7, Sweed broke free from coverage and was wide open. Ben Roethlisberger’s all but certain 50-yard touchdown pass hit Sweed in the hands and fell incomplete inside the 10-yard line. Sweed appeared to take his eyes off the ball and started to look for an oncoming hit. Sweed also seemed to suffer a bruised ego and the clock was stopped for an injury timeout which cost the Steelers a precious timeout. Sweed told the media after the game what his teammates said to him, in particular, Hines Ward. “He told me to be ready to make some plays,\’\’ Sweed said. “He said, `I drop balls, too. But I bounce back.\’ So I just shook it off and went out and played.\’\’ A few plays later, Sweed helped tight end Heath Miller gain a few extra yards by throwing a devastating block that left Ravens cornerback Corey Ivy laying prone on the ground.
Sweed, who only had six receptions for 64 yards this season, finished the game with two catches for 20 yards and more importantly may have grown up and shaken off his rookie label. With the veteran Ward getting up in age and number three wide receiver Nate Washington surely leaving via free agency in the off-season, Sweed will be looked upon to take up the slack in the receiving core. Sweed had been wearing the bust label up until Sunday, but will now have an opportunity to show he can improve and contribute as the Steelers travel to Tampa to face the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl 43.