Even though the 2009 season was a disappointment for the Pittsburgh Steelers, there are still moments and players worth remembering. It's with this in mind that we decided to hand out some e-awards to some members of the team for their play in 2009. Besides, it beats talking about watching the other teams that actually made the playoffs.First up, we hand out our honors for rookie of the year. It's a runaway vote for a third-round pick that consistently ran away from opposing defenses during 2009...jump it.
Rookie of the Year :: Mike Wallace, WR
Photo credit - cheferik03
As much of an enigma as he was during his stint as a Steelers, Nate Washington left some decent-sized shoes to fill when he departed this past offseason via free agency. He was the third piece of the puzzle to the elite WR duo of Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. He made some mind-boggling drops, but in 2008 he made his share of big plays too and the Steelers didn't have anybody on the roster who could replace that.
Enter Mike Wallace.
We didn't really know much about him when the Steelers called his name in the third round of the draft, but here's what we wrote after going some quick research back in April:
Here is your new Nate Washington and some good competition for Limas Sweed. Wallace made a name for himself as a deep threat in college and has some kick return skills as well. Rivals says he is very raw and needs to work on blocking, but I think the Steelers have a guy who can help show the way. A legit kick returner would be nice so hopefully Wallace can finally be the guy to fill that gap.
So we were a little bit off in our definition of Wallace's role with the team. We expected some impact but not a whole lot. After a few weeks, though, nobody even remembered Nate Washington.
Here's Wallace's stat line from his rookie season:
Here's Nate Washington's numbers from his 2008 season with Pittsburgh:
And 85's numbers from this year:
Basically, those pictures are there to tell you that Mike Wallace is already a better WR than Nate Washington ever was. Washington was targeted this year a lot more than Wallace and still put up comparable numbers. Wallace didn't drop the ball as often as Washington did, and continues to do with the Titans.
Only one rookie -- Indianapolis' Austin Collie -- had more TD catches than Wallace. Wallace's touchdowns were often in big moments too. His toe-tapping catch in the corner of the endzone against Green Bay is quite possible the play of the year for the entire NFL.
In short, Wallace far surpassed expectations and made the bad memories of Limas Sweed slowly fade away. Wallace and Holmes could be an elite, lightning-fast receiving combo for a long time. And it only took all of one season for him to shine.
Ziggy Hood, DL :: Ziggy didn't get a ton of playing time but injuries forced him into duty late in the season and he didn't disappoint. Hood is learning a new system and position so there's no need to worry about his future. He was actually a bigger impact this season than we expected.
David Johnson, H-Back :: Johnson was a big training camp surprise and filled in at both fullback and tight end this season. His size and versatility make him an interesting player and he played in 15 games and made a couple catches, which is saying something for a 7th rounder.