Right about the time you thought the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Offseason of Discontent” was coming to an end the speculation that Pro Bowl Wide Receiver Mike Wallace could be on the move has surfaced. Wallace is a restricted free agent which means the Steelers have certain rights to Wallace but should Wallace choose to sign elsewhere; the Steelers would be granted that team’s first-round draft pick.
For teams like the New England Patriots or Cincinnati Bengals who have two first-round selections it might be a distinct possibility. My personal opinion is that the Steelers always find a way to keep guys they truly value and if they believe Wallace is worthy of roughly nine million dollars per season they’ll get it done.
If however, the Steelers decide to part ways with the speedster don’t look for the Steelers to go wide receiver shopping in the first round. I believe they would be much more likely to look at the 3rd or 4th round or even later. Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders were 3rd round picks while team MVP Antonio Brown was a sixth round selection which leads me to believe that is a similar formula they will follow.
Here’s a look at five guys the Steelers could be targeting at the wideout position in rounds three through six should Wallace depart;
- Jeff Fuller from Texas A&M- 6’4” 217lbs This is a guy many project in the third or fourth round. Obviously his size is almost perfect for today’s NFL passing game and he excelled in Mike Sherman’s passing-dominated offense in Aggieland. He lacks top speed but would provide QB Ben Roethlisberger that “big target” he is always clamoring for. Fuller has been known to be inconsistent in pass-catching at times but some believe with proper guidance he could excel at the next level.
- Marvin McNutt from Iowa- 6’2” 238lbs McNutt had a really stellar career at Iowa where he contributed to some solid teams under Kirk Ferentz. The former QB is not going to blow anyone away with his speed or size, but he is exactly what you’d expect from a former QB in that he picks up the playbook well and sees the game from a different perspective than most receivers. McNutt is more than likely going to be a #2 or #3 receiver in the NFL and is targeted as a fourth-round pick, but for the Steelers, he could be a nice compliment to the speedy Sanders and Brown.
- Joe Adams from Arkansas- 5’ 11” 177lbs. Quick doesn’t even begin to explain Adams. He has to be considered one of the quickest wideouts available in 2012. He is not big and has been known to cough up the football on a big hit which means he will never be a #1 receiver. His payoff comes from being an elite special teams performer on punt returns and his speed can certainly pay dividends on deep routes on offense. With Antonio Brown becoming a significant target on offense a return man like Adams could be a welcome addition to the Steelers’ special teams’ unit. He is projected in the 4th round.
- T.Y. Hilton from Florida International- 5’ 9” 178lbs. Hilton was an absolute beast in Sun Belt Conference Play for the Golden Panthers and his skills look to translate well on the professional level due to durability and excellent special teams play. Obviously his size will scare off numerous teams off and he looks to have little room to bulk up on his frame. This is a guy that could easily turn into a solid 3rd receiver for the Steelers and also serve as a special teams member as well. His small stature will knock him into the 4th round or lower.
- B.J. Cunningham from Michigan State- 6’1” 201lbs. The all-time receiving leader for the Spartans, Cunningham is a Steelers-type player. He isn’t fast overly athletic but he will go anywhere to get the ball and is known for his toughness and ability to block downfield. His lack of speed and athleticism will knock him potentially down to the 6th round where he could be a steal for a team looking for a possession-type 3rd or 4th wideout.
Others to Watch: Jordan White-Western Michigan, Patrick Edwards-Houston, A.J. Jenkins-Illinois, Eric Page-Toledo, Gerrell Robinson-Arizona State, Brian Quick-Appalachian State
Of course finding a way to keep Mike Wallace makes this a moot point but only to a certain degree. Remember that Mike Tomlin was a wideout in his college days and during his years as head coach the Steelers have shown some solid ability in drafting at this position. Any of these five or the others mentioned being selected would not surprise me at all.