Cedrick entertaining Steelers

LATROBE – Yes, he is Cedrick the Entertainer. In little over one week of camp, Cedrick Wilson has made four plays that belong on a highlight reel.

Wilson was asked to pick his favorite from among the following:

A.) Catching a bomb from Ben Roethlisberger over Chris Hope and Ricardo Colclough after Hope had rung his bell a few plays earlier.

B.) Roethlisberger escapes a blitz and shovels a pass to Wilson on the sideline; he cuts twice, leaving Colclough and Troy Polamalu on the ground, on his way to the end zone.

C.) Catching a third-and-one bomb from Roethlisberger, who'd rolled right but reversed his field and spotted Wilson behind cornerback Deshea Townsend.

D.) Going up over Willie Williams in the back corner of the end zone to catch a fade pass from Tommy Maddox during the red-zone drill last Saturday.

"It's got be the first day when we were whooping and hollering at one another, the one against Chris and Ricardo," said Wilson. "That's got to be it because of the competition of it all. The offense won on that play and we kind of quieted them for a slight second."

Wilson came to the Steelers to compete for the split end job left open by the departure of free agent Plaxico Burress. But to Wilson's good fortune, he's been on the field for every first-team repetition because of Hines Ward's holdout.

The coaches are getting a long look at both Wilson and Antwaan Randle El, and it's obvious who the playmaker is: Cedrick the Entertainer.

"It's going pretty fast for me, being thrown into the fire with the first team," he said. "I've grasped the concept of the offense pretty fast. Now it's just getting down where I'm supposed to be, where I'm supposed to line up, things of that nature. It's coming along. I've been able to pick it up pretty fast and catch a couple balls and do pretty good."

Wilson was the sensation of the first week of training camp, and he didn't go about it softly; he didn't come to his new team and just stick his toe in the water: Wilson dove right in.

On the first live play from scrimmage, he caught an out pass. The third play resulted in the shot to the head from Hope. After the fifth play went to the other side, Wilson chirped at Roethlisberger, telling the quarterback he was open. The sixth play was the bomb over Hope, and the hits have kept on coming.

The quarterback, the secondary and certainly the fans have come to respect Wilson, who languished in San Francisco for four years. He broke into the 49ers' lineup last season and caught 47 passes for 641 yards (13.6 avg.) and 3 touchdowns. But it took one flick of Roethlisberger's wrist, on the third-and-one bomb, for Wilson to realize he wasn't catching passes from Tim Rattay any longer. And it took his acrobatic catch of Maddox's fade pass in the corner of the end zone for 13,500 fans at Saturday's practice to realize Burress didn't play here any longer.

"The fade pattern," Wilson started, "They want the big guys to jump up, but a guy like me, I might give a guy a slant look and then go fade, or I might come off the ball easy and then go fade and just try to beat him to the corner with my speed. I gave Willie a slant and then I went fade, so I buried him inside and left all that grass out there for Tommy to make a great throw to the corner. I use the field and my speed to my advantage."

Those are the same conclusions a group of football statisticians came to in their new book "Pro Football Prospectus", which was modeled after the statistical work being done in baseball.

In an essay concerning the Steelers, the statisticians attempted to predict whether the 5-11 Wilson would ably replace the 6-5 Burress.

Last year, their stats showed Wilson was slightly more effective in the red zone and inside his team's own 20 – "two areas of the field the Steelers have struggled in recent years," wrote author Ryan Wilson.

The author broke down the stats of all receivers by height and concluded that "while it's easy to be infatuated by height, the numbers don't really justify the love" and "with Cedrick Wilson, they've traded in height for a player who can stretch the field."

Wilson has proven just that his first week. He's shifty, quick and studious. And he loves the atmosphere surrounding the Steelers.

"Those guys out there, I love them to death," he said of his former teammates. "But this is definitely a different team with a different mentality. These guys have tons of confidence. And I've never seen as many fans in the stands as I have here. You come out for practice and it's almost like a high school football game, so every day you've got to be on point. If you're not on point, the fans are going to let you know; your defense is going to let you know. You've got to be on point every day, and that's preparing your mental toughness, so it's good."

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