Pittsburgh circa April 2009
The 2009 Steelers were coming off of a Super Bowl win and were riding high leading up to the Draft. Pittsburgh’s status as Super Bowl Champions didn’t mean that there weren’t plenty of holes for them to fill on their roster though.
Nate Washington’s departure in Free Agency to Tennessee left the Steelers in need of a 3rd WR that could also work the slot. Limas Sweed had blown his chance in the A.F.C. Championship Game and like they have always done, the Steelers’ Front Office looked to add depth at positions with questions with some intelligent draft selections. Thankfully, Colbert and Crew had a budding star fall right into their laps with pick #84 in the 3rd Round:
If you didn’t scout players or live in Mississippi, you likely didn’t hear much about Mike Wallace leading up to The 2009 N.F.L. Draft. Wallace played at Ole Miss which during the 2008 football season literally “ran their way” to a successful season. Armed with the talented but inaccurate Jevan Snead at QB, the Rebs relied heavily on RB Dexter McCluster and their O-Line led by Sandra Bullock’s favorite protege Michael Oher for Offensive success. While he was not the focal point of the Offense, the (6′ 200 lbs.) Wallace quietly had himself a great 2008 season, and solid college career playing for some mediocre teams at Ole Miss until Nutt’s arrival.
Statistically, Wallace steadily improved during his time in Oxford and his Catches per season (24, 38, 39), Yards per season (410, 716, 784), and TD’s (2,6,7) all went up during his three seasons there. In addition to his receiving prowess, Wallace also displayed some skills as a Kick Returner and finished 3rd in the SEC with a 24.6 yard average during the 2008 season.
Yet Wallace wasn’t without some questions as well, and many scouts saw Wallace as another burner (sub 4.3 40 yard dash) who could lack the tools to be a top-flight starter in the N.F.L.. The popular knocks against most speed guys were used against Wallace, most notably “bad route running” and “bad hands.”
To their credit, Colbert and Crew saw the value in having a guy who could immediately compete for playing time as a backup and in the slot at WR. Furthermore, they were able to see a guy that they could work into their system as they saw fit. Luckily for them, Wallace burst on the scene as a Rookie and contributed much more than any of us fans could have anticipated. Wallace notched 39 catches for 756 yards and 6 TD’s and earned the team’s 2009 Rookie of the Year Award! Then last season when he established himself as the #1 target for Big Ben, Mike gained 1,257 yards on 60 catches for 10 TD’s. I could go on for days about Wallace’s worth to the team, but for the sake of brevity I will just conclude this section by saying “Yeah, I think the Browns picked the wrong two guys.”