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Steelers receiver Reid needs to seize what might be his last chance

As third-round draft picks go, Willie Reid couldn't possibly sink any lower.

Right?

Because of injuries and repeated mistakes, Reid hasn't been on the football field as much as he'd like.

And on those occasions when the Steelers have called his number, dark clouds seem to follow his every move.

The Steelers continue to acquire receivers and kick returners at an alarming rate -- good for the team, bad for Reid. Given that Reid is entering the final year of his contract, something has to give -- or Reid may be gone for good.

Much was expected from Reid when he was drafted in 2006. Much more than four career receptions for 54 yards and seven kickoff returns for a 20.8-yard average. In sum, Reid has struggled to find his rhythm after playing just one game as a rookie due to a season-ending foot injury.

Nevertheless, he said he's never looked forward to a season more than he does 2008.

"You're going to have critics," said Reid, who is in competition with second-year player Dallas Baker for the fifth receiver spot. "You're going to have people say he should be doing this, he should be doing that. At the end of the day, once you start performing, you can prove a lot of people wrong. That's what I plan on doing. I plan on doing good things this year."

Surprisingly, in spite of all the bad karma that has so far defined his NFL career, Reid may be the Steelers most confident player.

"I talk highly about myself because I think highly of myself," Reid said.

In fact, Reid is confident enough to ignore the critics who question his hands as they pertain to dropping passes and mishandling kicks. Reid fumbled a kickoff against Baltimore last season, which may have further convinced the coaching staff that he isn't the player they thought he was. This week, the Steelers signed yet another return specialist, veteran Eddie Drummond, who also plays receiver.

"It's been a lot of difficult times for me," Reid said. "I think a lot of it has been just slowly coming around after missing a year, to last year not having a good preseason, being rusty," Reid said. "Not being able to play during the year, I think that hurt. You have to have a strong mind. Don't let anything that's happened in the past affect what you do. It's all mental right now."

Physical, too. Reid decided to return to a more comfortable playing weight after topping 200 pounds last season. He believes that losing close to 10 pounds will improve his quickness.

"Last year, I was a lot bigger, and I couldn't move the way I wanted," Reid said. "That's not my game. I was trying to be something I wasn't."

Weight loss and bold talk are fine, but the bottom line is that it's time, once and for all, for the real Willie Reid to stand up -- whoever he is.

"Nobody has seen the real Willie yet," Reid said. "I haven't even seen the real Willie yet. He's going to come out and impress a lot of people."

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