Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
There is talk that Hines Ward may be calling it a career after Super Bowl XLV. Ward has even asked on Facebook what the fans think of the idea of him retiring.
When the Steelers traded Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets last offseason, many people believed that Mike Wallace would not be able to fill his shoes. Not only has he filled them, he has passed anyone's expectations as to how good he was going to be.
Not only is Wallace a deep threat, he can go over the middle or turn a simple five yard hitch into something spectacular.
Wallace finished fifth in the NFL with 1,257 yards and 10 scores. He also led the NFL in catches of more than 20 yards with 26.
No matter who is on the team in 2011, Wallace will be the best receiver on the team.
Though I personally hope that Ward returns to the Steelers in 2011, reality is, he may retire. The Steelers have set themselves up nicely for his departure with the drafting of Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.
Sanders was drafted in the same round as Mike Wallace was the previous season, but his rookie season was no where near as successful as Wallace. However, Sanders will not be asked to do in his second year what Wallace was asked to do this year.
Sanders, at most, will be asked to be the number two option, and if he continues to improve, then the Steelers will be set at that position.
Sanders does not have a lock on the second WR position if Hines Ward does decide to retire. He is going to have to fight Antonio Brown for it.
Brown has come up big in both of the Steelers playoff games, meaning two things.
1 - The game is not too big for him. When any rookie can make big catches in the biggest games of the season, (59 yard reception off his helmet against the Ravens to set up the winning score, completion that ended the game against the Jets on 3rd and 6).
2 - Ben Roethlisberger has the faith in Brown to throw him the ball in big situations. That means Brown probably has the edge up against Sanders for either the second receiver (IF Ward retires) or third (if Ward does not retire)
Forgot about him, didn't you?
It seems like Sweed will probably be the odd man out in the Steelers' rotation. However, he does posses something that none of the other receivers have: size.
At 6'5", Sweed would present serious match-up issues with any team in the red zone. If he could overcome his health issues and dropping the ball issues, then there may in fact be a place in Pittsburgh for him, as the fourth receiver.
Antwaan Randle El
Though Randle El coming back to the Steelers was a nice story, the reality is, there simply may not be enough roster spots for him to stay with the team.
The only way I can see El staying with the Steelers is if Ward retires. A solid veteran leader in the receiving corp is always important, and El would be able to do that in the absence of Hines Ward.
Anyone else on the roster (Arnaz Battle) will be used pretty exclusively on Special Teams. They pose no real options playing on the offense.