Fastest WR in the game? Rookie Mike Wallace

The Steelers feel they found hidden treasure at the bottom of the third round in last April's draft. His name is Mike Wallace. And don't blink when he's running a route.

UNITY TWP. – He's the talk of training camp, because rookie receiver Mike Wallace

A. " ... can take the top off of any coverage."

B. " ... will force teams to play cover-2 against us."

C. " ... is two years ahead of Nate (Washington) when Nate was a rookie."

D. " ... is just fast."

How fast?

"He's probably the fastest guy I ever covered," said seventh-year Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor.

Taylor is fast himself. He said he was clocked on the radar gun at 26 miles per hour this summer. And to everyone who's watched Wallace run past Steelers cornerbacks this camp, Taylor adds this:

"Ain't nobody gets past me. I ain't worrying about him."

Taylor says that he, Wallace and Troy Polamalu are the fastest players on the team, and that the fastest receivers in the league are "Steve Smith, (Randy) Moss, and probably Chad Johnson," and that Wallace has better pure speed than any of them.

"Hands down, he's the fastest," Taylor said of the third-round draft pick out of Ole Miss.

"But he ain't got no technique. He runs like he's on the playground. He's just fast."

How raw is too raw? How much technique does he have to learn?

"He just has to learn how to control his body," Taylor said. "He'd be unstoppable if he learns how to control his body. You have to look the same on every route. With him, you can kind of tell when he's running a short route and when he's going long. When you can't tell, that's when your speed is really effective. When I can see what route you're going to run, I'm not worrying about you."

Taylor said Wallace will help the Steelers right away because, "He can take the top off of any coverage."

As for how long it will take Wallace to learn technique, Taylor said: "I don't know. That's on him."

"Normally it takes two years to look fast when you're not really running fast," said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. "When they come in, they want to run so fast that their body's out of control sometimes. It takes a little time to really learn how to play at seventh-eighths speed rather than full speed when you're a real fast guy. But you can still play. You can still play very effectively as you learn."

That's what Wallace has been doing this camp. He's run past the corners and safeties all week, but sore-armed starter Ben Roethlisberger and the backups haven't been able to deliver him the ball. Many of the camp interceptions, in fact, have come on underthrown deep balls to Wallace. Still, he's been a revelation to an offense that lost Washington and needed to find a second deep threat to pair with Santonio Holmes.

"He'll force teams to play cover-2 against us," said Hines Ward.

"If you can put two deep threats on the outside," explained Arians, "you stretch the field so much for the two inside guys. When you have people like Nate and Santonio, and now Mike, and Limas (Sweed), too, it just opens everything up for Hines and Heath (Miller). It's hard to double double, and then single those two guys. And, of course, you also need the depth. When one goes down, it's always good to have another threat come in, and Mike has that capability. He's probably two years ahead of Nate when Nate was a rookie. He still has a long way to go, but he can get deep and he can catch it."

So, the raw rookie really can help the Steelers win now?

"For sure. Right away," Arians said. "I think back to Nate's first catches and they were in the AFC Championship Game at Denver. I think this kid can just go out, on the outside, and threaten people. When you have that speed, they have to respect it."


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