Wallace on fast track to replace Santonio Holmes
Mike Wallace is on the fast track to replacing Santonio Holmes
as the Steelers’ primary deep passing threat. Byron Leftwich needed
only one practice to realize that.
During a 7-on-7 passing drill recently in a voluntary practice,
Wallace beat his man cleanly, but Leftwich’s pass landed behind the
receiver. The timing and precision needed to correctly execute the
fly pattern weren’t there.
Clearly, it’s going to take the Steelers some time to adjust to
having a receiver other than Holmes lining up with Hines Ward in a
tandem that, for one season, paired two Super Bowl MVPs.
Or maybe it won’t.
Wallace is convinced the transition will take less time than
expected, given he’s replacing a former first-round draft pick who
caught 79 passes last season and had a combined 18 touchdown
receptions the last three seasons.
“I feel like they believe I can do the same things Santonio
did,” Wallace said. “I don’t feel like there’s anything Santonio
did that I can’t do. I’m still running some of the routes I ran
last year, it’s just that I have more of them to run.”
Maybe Wallace doesn’t have Holmes’ knowledge of NFL cornerbacks,
or of opponents’ defensive tendencies. And he’s still not certain
how running plays out of Holmes’ position will differ from running
them out of Ward’s position; he spent last season as Ward’s
Leftwich does know this: Few defenders will be faster than
“We all know what Santonio can do,” said Leftwich, who is
running the first-team offense during Ben Roethlisberger’s absence.
“Mike, he’s running by a lot of people. He’s got speed that not a
lot of people have. We haven’t seen that in the league a lot.
There’s only a few people who can run like that.”
Holmes is fast, but he’s not as fast as Wallace, who caught 39
passes for 756 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 19.4 yards
per catch as a rookie. His speed was such an asset, the Steelers
felt confident they didn’t need to look elsewhere for a replacement
last month when they decided to trade Holmes to the Jets following
a series of off-field missteps.
After compensating for Wallace’s speed, Leftwich managed to hit
the former Mississippi receiver on the same deep pass play that
didn’t work the first time.
“When you think of Mike, you think of a deep threat,”
quarterback Dennis Dixon said. “Whenever you go up top with Mike,
you’ve got to be sure to release it early because he can outrun
To Ward, the biggest adjustment for Wallace won’t be in lining
up at a different position, but learning how to get open while
running precise patterns on first and second downs.
Last season, Wallace – a third-round draft pick – mostly played
in multiple receiver packages in which he rarely opposed top-line
cornerbacks or was double-teamed.
“Sometimes the (top) guys lined up on me, but for the most part
they were on Santonio or Hines,” Wallace said. “But I’m always
ready for a challenge. I don’t feel like I’m afraid of anybody, I
don’t fear anybody and they go to work just like I go to work. I’m
going to be ready for them, just like they’re going to be ready for
Wallace also benefited from the instruction time Ward and Holmes
“I learned how to be a pro, coming in every day and working and
never being satisfied with a good game or having one good week,”
Wallace said. “If you’re hanging onto that, you’re going to get
whipped. Every day’s a new day, that’s the main thing.”
Every season’s a new one, too, and this could be an especially
demanding one for the Steelers because Roethlisberger will be
suspended until October.
“We know what type of business we’re in and we’re ready to roll
with whoever’s in,” Wallace said. “It’s always going to be hard
when he’s not here, but we’ve got to keep rolling. I feel like when
he comes back, we’re going to pick up where we left off.”
Wallace also hopes to pick up where Holmes left off, averaging
seven catches per game during the second half of last season.
“That’s the nature of the business,” Wallace said. “One guy’s
out and the next day I have to step in.”