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anger 82&95
06-11-2009, 06:33 AM
Column: Steelers rookie wideout a quick learner

http://www.timesonline.com/articles/200 ... 055941.txt (http://www.timesonline.com/articles/2009/06/10/sports/steelers/doc4a307b6a05cc6866055941.txt)
By Mike Bires, Times Sports Staff
Published: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 11:36 PM EDT

PITTSBURGH — Mike Wallace doesn’t have a car right now, so there’s no chance he’ll get stopped by the cops for speeding.

But on the football field, this guy can fly.

He’s only worked out with the Steelers for 15 off-season practices. But he’s seen enough of his new teammates to claim he’s the fastest man on the roster.

“By far ... by far,” he said with a sheepish grin. “If you’re talking about foot speed, those guys don’t want to see me in a race.”

A rookie wide receiver taken in the third round of the NFL Draft, Wallace said he could beat speed burners like Santonio Holmes, Ike Taylor, Willie Parker or Troy Polamalu in a 40-yard dash or 100-yard sprint.

But he knows speed alone won’t guarantee him playing time. He has so much to learn and improve upon.

Route running. Pass catching. Blocking. Mastering the playbook. Understanding how defensive backs defend. Picking up tricks of the trades from veterans like Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.

“Mike, he’s still raw,” Ward said. “But each day, he’s starting to see the game (more).”

For Wallace and the rest of the rookies, the true test comes Aug. 1 when training camp begins. That’s when pads go on and hitting begins.

Right now, Limas Sweed, a second-round pick last year, and free-agent pick-up Shaun McDonald, are ahead in the pecking order. Yet if Wallace keeps developing, he might work his way into the rotation.

He’s also going to get a shot at returning kickoffs.

Wallace turned in the second-fastest time of any wide receiver in this year’s draft. Darrius Heyward-Bey, the speedster out of Maryland drafted in the first round by the Oakland Raiders, was clocked at 4.30. Wallace ran 4.33.

Wallace used his speed at Ole Miss as a deep-ball threat and kick return specialist.

“Those are big-time guys ... all the guys you just named,” Wallace said of the Steelers’ speedsters. “They have big-time status in the league. I might be faster than those guys, but I’m not established. I’m trying to go where they are.”

Since arriving in Pittsburgh shortly after the draft, Wallace has lived in a North Side apartment complex with other rookies. Each day, they’re shuttled to work at team headquarters on the South Side.

Wallace, from New Orleans, is still learning about life in Pittsburgh. Because he doesn’t have a car, he hasn’t been able to experience much of it.

He has attended a Pirates game (he walked to PNC Park). But he hasn’t even gone up to Mount Washington for the breath-taking, panoramic view of the three rivers and city skyline.

“Pittsburgh’s OK from what I’ve seen so far,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll get to learn more about it once the season starts.

“One thing I keep hearing about is how cold it gets here during the winter. You know, I’m from the South. I’ve never even played in a cold-weather game before.”

If he’s a fast learner, he’ll get plenty of chances to do just that.