Snapshot: Rian Wallace

Had Rian Wallace waited a year, perhaps he would've been drafted earlier than the fifth round.

Likewise, had Wallace come out last year, after finishing sixth in the nation in tackles as a redshirt sophomore, he might also have been drafted earlier than he was two weeks ago by the Steelers.

Either way you look at it, Wallace, a 6-2¼, 241-pound linebacker from Temple, is a confounding athlete who'd be difficult to gauge in any year.

Take 2003. Yes, Wallace was a tackling machine for Temple. And of his career-best 148 tackles, 19.5 were made behind the line of scrimmage.

He was by far the best player on a 1-11 Temple team. He was also one of the goats in what could've been the school's biggest win in decades.

Temple trailed No. 12 Virginia Tech, 17-0 in the fourth quarter late in the season. The Owls rallied to send the game into overtime, but on Virginia Tech's first OT possession quarterback Bryan Randall ran through the spot Wallace was assigned to fill. Randall went all the way for a 23-yard touchdown.

Temple scored on its overtime possession, but of course missed the extra point.

Wallace wasn't the kicker, but he shared equal blame in a game that serves as a microcosm of his career at Temple.

"He's a little raw right now," said Steelers linebacker coach Keith Butler. "But I think he will help us. He's a willing hitter, he's aggressive and I think that fits us more than anything else. That's what I look for in a linebacker and I know that is what Bill Cowher looks for in a linebacker."

In three seasons at Temple, Wallace made 325 tackles (192 solo). He would've made more had he not tore an ACL and an MCL in the Big 33 game prior to his freshman season.

As a high school senior at Pottstown, a suburb of Philadelphia, Wallace was the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Temple, Wisconsin, Wake Forest, Pitt, Connecticut and Maryland were among the interested colleges, but because Wallace was a late academic qualifier only Temple stuck with him.

Wallace redshirted in 2001 and then led Big East freshmen with an average of 6.3 tackles per game as a weak-side linebacker in 2002.

In 2003, Wallace became the first Temple player since Lance Johnstone in 1991 to earn All-Big East Conference honors.

In 2004, Wallace slipped from 148 tackles to 101, 92 solo tackles to 44 and 19.5 tackles for loss to 5.5. He was also suspended for a midseason practice fight with a teammate.

"The guy just sucker-punched me," Wallace told Pittsburgh reporters on draft day. "Coach said since I was a leader I should have upheld my responsibility. He did what he had to do."

With a 2-year-old son and a poverty-stricken mother, Wallace opted to turn pro with a year of eligibility remaining. The scouting reports were not kind to the man who goes by the nickname of "Goo."

While Wallace is "strong and tough" with "a great motor" and is "very productive," most scouts denigrate Wallace because he "really struggles in coverage" because of "stiff hips," and he "needs to work on his technique and show better discipline." Wallace also has trouble "taking on blocks."

But one Internet scout said of Wallace: "His problems escaping blocks in the open field could be hidden at an inside slot in a 3-4 defense."

And that's exactly where the Steelers will put him. Wallace will back up Larry Foote at the Mac position.

"The position he lined up in (at Temple) is related to a lot of the things we do," said Butler. "He was a good linebacker without a lot of help. A lot of guys were drafted ahead of him that had a lot more help than he did. He is a little raw right now, but I think he will help us."

Steel City Insider Top Stories