A look at the receivers

They are the stars of the Steelers' offense and they know it. <br><br> No, not the running backs or quarterbacks, but the wide receivers. <br><br> In Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and Antwaan Randle El, the Steelers have three very talented, sometimes electrifying performers. They also have three interesting characters.

Head coach Bill Cowher is going to have to earn every cent of his spanking new contract extension massaging the egos of Ward and Burress when training camp opens July 30 at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. But that shouldn't be a problem for Cowher. He treats his star players better than anyone not related to him and is a master at stroking their egos.

The situation between Cowher and Burress will bear watching and you can bet how he handles the receiver's decision to skip the team's offseason workouts will be scrutinized closely by not only the media, but by other members of the team as well.

Cowher is going to have to tread carefully. If he comes down to hard on Burress, he risks alienating the receiver, whom he needs for the team to be successful this season. But if he plays it off as if nothing happened, he could have three or four players skipping offseason workouts next year.

One such player is Ward, who has already complained correctly about being underpaid. Ward, the team's best player, has two years remaining on his current contract, one that barely pays him among the top 20 wideouts in the league.

But the Steelers aren't going to give him an extension until after this season is over - at the earliest.

Randle El, meanwhile, is the bubbly guy on the team that everyone seems to look at as their little brother. With Burress AWOL, Randle El has run with the first team and if Cowher automatically hands the starting job back to Burress, there may be some grousing.

Then again, if his teammates think Burress is their best option to win, they'll accept him back with open arms.

The Steelers brought veteran Chris Doering back after a season in which he caught 18 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown. Doering isn't fast, but he's got good hands and somehow finds a way to get open, making him a nice, consistent option as a No. 4 receiver.

Lee Mays, who has wrested the Mr. August moniker away from cornerback Deshea Townsend is back for another try at unseating Doering as the No. 4 receiver, something he failed miserably at last season. Mays has good size and speed, but hasn't played consistently enough to merit playing time.

The Steelers got Freddie Milons from Philadelphia last season right before the season began and stashed him on their roster all season without playing him. Since he didn't see the field, the Steelers didn't owe the Eagles any compensation for Milons, a speedy receiver who looks like he should be a good slot guy.

But while Milons will make an occasional great play, he also has problems with drops. He seems to have good hands, so maybe it's a concentration problem. He has added value as a return man.

The Steelers are intrigued by rookie free agent Zamir Cobb, a speedster from Temple. Cobb looked good during the team's offseason workouts and it will be interesting to see how he handles himself after taking a good hit over the middle. That's usually where the men are separated from the boys.

But the 5-11, 182-pound Cobb has a good shot to stick with the team, especially if Milons or Mays fails to show any improvement. At the very least, there is a spot on the practice squad to be won.

The Steelers also like big Huey Whittaker, a 6-4, 233-pound receiver who uses his strength to get open. Whittaker had knee problems as a junior and must show he's completely over that.

The other undrafted rookie the Steelers brought in is Glen Martinez, who averaged 19.6 yards per reception on his 136 catches in his collegiate career. Of course that came at Saginaw Valley State, so those numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt. The 6-2, 183-pound Martinez has some of Whittaker's size to go along with some of Cobb's speed. But he's got his work cut out for him to move ahead of either at this point.

Also in the mix is Brian Robinson, a 6-3, 212-pounder who signed with the Steelers in January. He spent time with the team last year during the offseason, but was released prior to training camp.

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