The Coveted No. 3 Receiver Spot: Who Will Take It in Pittsburgh?

Mimi McCannCorrespondent IMay 14, 2009

PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 11:  Limas Sweed #14 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the San Diego Chargers during their AFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 11, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

My favorite story out of the Steeler camp lately has been the contract extension of Hines Ward.

Ward is tough mentally and physically, but his leadership and ability to mentor new Steelers combined with his will to win and afforded him his dream of retiring in the black and gold.

The Steeler receiving corps is stacked in one sense boasting two Super Bowl MVPs.  Behind Ward and Holmes, we have a whole bunch of guys competing to fill the number three and four spots on the roster.  

Are the rest of the hopefuls still a world away from Ward and Holmes or are we on the brink of finding ourselves armed with the best squad of receivers in the league.

Back in March, Mike Prusita of the Tribune Review reported that Bruce Arians (sounding a bit like Frank Sinatra) told him: "The No. 3 receiver will be Limas, Martin Nance, and whoever we draft, one of these cats".

So lets think about this.  Hmmmm...Sweed.  We all remember Sweed in the AFC Championship game against the Ravens.  

Two contrasting images come to mind:  The one where Sweed gets open deep only to take his eyes off of the ball just yards away from a much needed touchdown late in the game, and the one where Sweed levelled Corey Ivy.

Let's imagine the glass half full.  I am going to focus on Sweed levelling Ivy.  Why? Because in that moment, he looked like a Steeler.

I am not going to get carried away strictly by emotion.  Kevin Colbert also has gone on record saying that Sweed not only plays a position in which requires time for development, but that his wrist injury may have further hampered his progress last year.

Sweed was a second round pick in '08.  The Steelers want to give their tall, fast deep threat another chance.  

Whoever we draft in '09 has turned out to be third round pick Mike Wallace.  The Post Gazette reported that Bruce Arians said of Wallace: "We'll just throw him in the mix and the best ones come out...we're looking for that guy who is going to take Nate's spot in the three-wides.  He's a very capable player for that."

Wallace is also a legitimate threat as a punt and kick off returner, returning four punts and four kickoffs for TDs during his senior year at Ole' Miss.

Sweed and Wallace may compete for the number three receiver spot on the roster but it may be too early to leave Martin Nance out of the picture.

Nance is the man who was also touted as another option for the Steelers at the number three receiver position.  

Martin Nance was described in his college profile as possessing the "rare combination of height and speed with the ability to pick up yards after the catch."  

Another stand out fact was that during his sophomore year in 2003, he was the top target for his QB at Miami (OH), junior Ben Roethlisberger.  Nance finished '03 with 90 catches for 1,498 yards and 11 TDs.

Going against Nance is his previously lack luster performance in the NFL.  In 2006, he was quickly released after being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Bills.  He was also released after a brief stint with the Vikings in 2008.  

Earlier this month, it was reported on that Nance was held out of mini camp for an undisclosed issue that required close inspection.  

In his favor, Fox Sports reported that the fact that Nance played with Roethlisberger in college left Ben with a high opinion of the receiver.

The competition at the receiver position this summer is going to be intense.  

The Steelers have some prospects that appear to address the needs that were left not only by the departure of Nate Washington, but also by the void that has been lingering since Antwaan Randle El left us without a return threat when he left for the Skins in 2006.

I am looking forward to the competition!  May the best man win!