The news today coming out of the Pittsburgh Steelers camp via wide receiver Mike Wallace and his agent is that the speedy Wallace is “all but gone” as he plans to take his talents to South Beach and sign a big free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins. This wasn’t unexpected, and was not something the Steelers front office hasn’t been preparing for, but what exactly does Wallace leaving mean for the Steelers and the 2013 NFL draft?
On the surface, I would say very little. I never have gotten the impression that the Steelers front office lacked confidence in the receiving corps minus Wallace, so I don’t see a knee-jerk reaction to him leaving with something like a big free agent signing or, more importantly, a first round draft pick being spent on a replacement. In fact, I’ll be shocked if the Steelers use anything earlier than a third or fourth round pick. This group is in good hands with starters Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, and veteran Jerricho Cotchery at the third. You mix in what everyone hopes is a healthy Heath Miller at tight end and this group is rock solid from top to bottom.
The idea of Wallace as a No.1 receiver was always a point of debate. He is fast and he is dynamic. But there was always some question about his overall game. In fact, many considered Brown a more complete player–never afraid to do the dirty work, going over the middle and making the catch in traffic. I think Brown will have to adjust as the sledding is going to get a little rougher without Wallace on the field, but he is a hard working player who can thrive as this team’s top wide receiver.
Now, that’s not to say that the Steelers won’t still bring in a young receiver. They are going to need to decide whether or not they want to get another receiver who can stretch the field or will they opt for a big wide-body type of receiver who can be more of a red zone threat? The Steelers front office typically does a nice job in selecting good fits in the passing game. If I were to take a guess, I would expect the Steelers to favor a big, tall target.
The young man I really like as a late fourth or fifth round pick is Aaron Mellette from DII Elon college. He’s 6-3, 220lbs and has long arms. He’s going to slip no matter what some draftniks want to tell you because he hasn’t shown himself against top competition. But late in the draft, he’s an excellent project player who can work his way into the offense gradually as he learns how to better get separation from cornerbacks and learn to high point the football, where he could start to pull in touchdowns, especially in the red zone.