If the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t take a wide receiver in the 2013 NFL Draft, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert should demoted to hot dog vendors at Heinz Field.
Mike Wallace is now a Dolphin swimming in money, and the Steelers are left with Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders as their only remaining receivers who have had any impact.
The Steelers don’t necessarily have to pick a receiver in the first round, but if they do use the No. 17 pick on a receiver, it should be Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson.
It will be hard for the Steelers to replicate Wallace’s skill set. Not every receiver can take the top off a defense the way Wallace can.
Patterson could compensate for the loss of Wallace with his own attributes, including some that Wallace didn’t bring.
At 6’2”, 216 pounds, Patterson is two inches taller and 17 pounds heavier than Wallace.
Patterson shows more desire on the field than Wallace. He didn’t give up when the Volunteers were down 41-10 at Vanderbilt with six minutes left in the game last November. Patterson fielded a punt and appeared to be tackled, but he rolled on top of someone and his knee never hit the ground. While some players thought the play was over, Patterson kept running for an 81-yard touchdown.
Unlike Wallace, Patterson already has proven he’s no one-trick pony. In 2012 he became the first player in four years to score touchdowns on a reception, a run, a kick return and a punt return in the same season.
So maybe Patterson isn’t quite as fast as Wallace, but he’s not exactly a turtle. Patterson’s 4.42 was the sixth-fastest 40 among receivers at the NFL Scouting Combine, according to NFL.com. That might not match Wallace’s 4.33 at the 2009 combine, but Patterson was fast enough in 2012 to stretch the field like Wallace. He averaged 16.9 yards per reception.
Tavon Austin is the only other receiver in this draft class who’s a virtual lock to be taken in the first round, but he wouldn’t be a good value for the Steelers at No. 17.
Austin ran a 4.34 40 and could fill the highlight reel like Wallace did. But he’s only 5’8”, 174 pounds. The Steelers need more size at the wide receiver position, not less.
Patterson is the only receiver the Steelers should take if they keep the No. 17 pick in the first round. If they do get him, he’d be their tallest receiver other than 36-year-old Plaxico Burress.
The Steelers don’t need to go overboard and trade up in the first round to get Patterson. If he’s there at No. 17, great. But if he’s not, the Steelers should use their pick to address another urgent need like running back or outside linebacker, or trade down in the first round to acquire more picks later in the draft. With the immediate holes they have to fill and the depth they need at other positions, the Steelers could use every one of their eight picks, if not more. Trading up for Patterson would force them to give up some of those picks.
Another reason Patterson isn’t worth trading up for is because there are caveats to drafting him.
The junior college transfer played only one year at the FBS level, although he made quite an impression in that one year. He set a school record with 1,858 all-purpose yards and led Tennessee with 10 touchdowns (five receiving, three rushing, one kickoff return, one punt return).
NFL Draft Scout says Patterson “needs to refine his route-running.” Then again, Wallace didn’t exactly run a full route tree in his first three seasons.
Teams weren’t impressed with Patterson’s intelligence and maturity during interviews at the combine, according to the New England Sports Network. Wallace never was going to be confused with Stephen Hawking, but the Steelers should take a closer look at that.
The Steelers don’t need to use a first-round pick to build a productive receiving corps. Wallace and Sanders were drafted in the third round and Brown was taken in the sixth round.
However, the Steelers fared pretty well the two times they’ve drafted a receiver in the first round since the turn of the century.
Santonio Holmes, the No. 25 pick in 2006, was the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII.
Burress, the No. 8 pick in 2000, caught 261 passes in five years with the Steelers. That pick could yield even more for the Steelers now that Burress is back.
The Steelers are due to draft a receiver in the first round, but only if Patterson is still waiting by the phone.