Steelers: More prominent role suits Wallace
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Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians would be thrilled if the Steelers could find another receiver in the NFL draft like Mike Wallace, the rookie sensation who was plucked in the third round last year.
For now, though, he is looking forward to Wallace taking the next step and replacing Santonio Holmes as their starting split end.
"I've not had a rookie wide receiver play that well in 12 years," Arians said. "He was consistent; not perfect, but consistent. He didn't hit the wall. He played well all the way through the end.
"It was a great start for him. He should come into this year with a ton of confidence."
Wallace will need it.
Two weeks ago, he was going to be the Steelers' third receiver again behind Holmes and veteran Hines Ward. After a rookie season in which he averaged a team-high 19.6 yards per catch and caught six touchdowns passes, Wallace was expected to be more of a factor in the offense, even with the free-agent signing of veteran Antwaan Randle El.
But, when Holmes was unexpectedly traded to the New York Jets, the expectations on Wallace suddenly increased.
Not that he has a problem with that.
"I was kind of surprised because I didn't see it coming," Wallace said Tuesday after the second day of offseason practice. "My reaction to it is, it's a business. And we understand the business we're in, so we have to move on. He was a great teammate and a great friend to me, but I'm going to do my best to step up and take his place."
Then he added: "I'm always looking forward to the challenge, even if 'Tone was here. What I did was last year, that was my rookie year. I was looking to take a step forward anyway, whether he was here or not. But, without him, we have to keep moving."
Wallace was the second-fastest receiver in the draft last season and he quickly and routinely used his speed to outrace the coverage. Of his 39 catches, seven were 40 yards or longer, four of those for touchdowns.
"Without 'Tone here, that's one less leader we have," Wallace said. "So, it's time for someone else to step up and, hopefully, it will be me."
NOTE -- Backup quarterback Dennis Dixon said he will change his uniform number from No. 2 to No. 10 -- the number worn by Holmes since the 2006 season. It is also the number Dixon wore in college at Oregon. "I've been 10 all my life," Dixon said. "Nothing against Santonio, I just feel comfortable in that number. [Number] 2 was good, but I'd like to go back to my old ways."
First Published April 21, 2010 12:00 am