Mays putting on a show

<b>LATROBE –</B> On a receiver-laden roster like the one the Steelers have amassed, it's difficult for a player to find playing time, let alone work his way into the starting lineup. <br><br> Lee Mays knows that's not possible just yet.

But that hasn't stopped the second-year wide receiver from putting on an impressive display early in the Steelers' training camp here at St. Vincent College.

Mays has been making acrobatic receptions seem almost ordinary so far as he seemingly pulls one or two off in every practice.

"I was always taught that when the ball is in the air, I treat it like it's my ball every time, no matter where it's at," said the 6-1, 192-pound Mays, a sixth-round draft pick last year.

"It's my job to go and get it."

That's the kind of attitude that could get Mays more playing time this season as the Steelers search for a replacement for veteran Terence Mathis in their multiple wide receiver sets. As things now stand, Plaxico Burress, Hines Ward, and Antwaan Randle El have the top three spots locked up, with Mays and six-year veteran Chris Doering, who was signed during the offseason, fighting for the No. 4 spot.

"Lee probably has a bit of an edge on Chris right now because he's been here for a year," said offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. "And it's good to see him making the most of his chances. But we need to see him carry that over to a game." "You can't discount Chris because he's been around this league for a long time. He's a crafty veteran."

Mays, however, has at least one attribute Doering can't match - very good speed.

A member of the Texas-El Paso track team in college, Mays won the Western Athletic Conference championship in the indoor 60-meter high hurdles and finished second in the outdoor high hurdles in 2000.

He played mostly as a kickoff return man for the Steelers last season, making 32 returns during the regular season and averaging 21.0 yards.

He also drew a big pass interference penalty in the team's playoff loss at Tennessee, blowing by a Titans' defender and forcing him to grab Mays or give up a touchdown.

"He has deceptive speed," said Mularkey. "He can really run for a big guy. He has good hands. He just needs to do it on game day."

Mays did it at Texas-El Paso on a consistent basis as a junior, earning first-team All-WAC honors after catching 71 passes for 1,098 yards and 15 touchdowns. But his numbers dropped off to 53 receptions for 732 yards and just one touchdown as a senior after UTEP was hit hard by graduations.

It caused Mays to fall farther in the draft than he may have had he produced another big season.

"I've never worried about that," said Mays. "I ended up here for a reason. And if the coaching staff decides I'm the best guy to be on the field, I'll be out there. I don't make that decision."

But Mays is certainly making that decision a difficult one.

"He's off to a good start," said Mularkey. "He just needs to keep working hard and good things will happen. It's a nice situation for us to have that many quality guys."

Dale Lolley

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