Mike Wallace Wins Steelers Rookie of the Year – How Will the Rest of His Career Go?

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced today that rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace has won the 26th Annual Joe Greene Great Performance Rookie of the year award.

The announcement of the award came as little surprise to Steelers Nation, who have come to know Wallace well during the Steelers 2009 season. Wallace has played 14 games, and recorded 37 catches including 5 touchdowns.

Those are impressive numbers for any rookie, but much more so when you consider that he is the third receiver on a team that includes Super Bowl MVP’s Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, and an All Pro Caliber tight end in Health Miller.

His game winning catch against Green Bay was a play worthy of an All Pro.

No One is Saying Mike Who ?

This stands in stark contrast to last year’s announcement. Steelers Nation greeted news that free agent linebacker Patrick Bailey was the Steelers 2008 rookie of the year with “who?” or with more general laments over the failure of any of the Steelers 2008 draft picks to generate something on the field.

Steelers Rookie of the Year Winners Have Checkered Histories

Wallace, a third round pick in the Steelers 2009 draft looks like a steal and looks to have a right future ahead of him. Or so it would appear.

For reasons obscure and unclear, the future has not always been kind to Steelers rookie of the year award winners. As you can see below, past winners of the award have either gone on to be:

One Year Wonders
Productive, but Still Disappointing
Decent, but Not Spectacular and/or Over Taken by Other Rookies
They Budded into Super Stars

Simply click on the link above to learn more about the members of each category.

One Year Wonders
1986, LB Anthony Henton – Who? Exactly my response. Had to look him up. Played to years, started 4 games but did nothing of note. This ninth round pick was clearly out classed by fellow rookie and 2nd round pick Gerald Williams.
1987, CB Delton Hall – A second round pick who started gang busters but then went downhill after that. Also had a penchant for starting fights, never started more than four games after his rookie year.
1994, RB Bam Morris – The man who made Barry Foster expendable. Did have a decent sophomore season, but got busted for drugs shorly after Super Bowl XXX.
1999, WR Troy Edwards – Grabbed 61 balls as a rookie, but never developed after that, perhaps in part to his “I can’t race air” attitude to training.
2001, LB Kendrell Bell – Simply wreaked havoc as a rookie. Injuries marred his second season and after that the word was that he did not want to learn coverages or schemes
2008, LB Patrick Bailey? – Perhaps this is a little harsh, but he was supposed to be a special teams demon… then again, the 2009 Steelers special teams have played like hell…

Productive, but Still Disappointing
1990, TE Eric Green – Green’s numbers were pretty good, by any standard. But my God, this man was supposed to redefine the tight end position, instead his final year was marked by his tendency for running out of bounds.
1991, TE Adrian Cooper – Played well as a rookie when Green was injured and then again 1992 during Eric Green first drug suspension. Justification that a sub par year in 1993 was due to being under paid got him on the first bus out of town.
1995, QB Kordell Stewart – A tremendous athlete, but as a quarterback he simply could not cope with the pressures of being a starter
1997, CB Chad Scott – Started as a rookie, then missed his entire second year due to injury. Many felt he should have played safety. He was never popular with the fans.

Decent, but Not Spectacular and/or Over Taken by Other Rookies
1985, P Harry Newsome – Not a bad punter, but sadly Newsome was the best player the Steelers selected in the 1985 draft
1988, RB Warren Williams – A solid, dependable number two back, who definitely belong in the rotation back in the days when both the half back and the full back got carries. Still, he was eclipsed by both Dermonti Dawson and John Jackson
1992, FS Darren Perry – His development in training camp led the Steelers to cut Pro-Bowl caliber safety Thomas Everett. Had a good career, but Leon Searcy, Joel Steed, and Levon Kirkland all grew into more prominent roles with the team
1996, FB Jon Witman – A solid full back whose running capabilities never were truly explored. Linebackers Earl Holmes and Carlos Emmons ended up being the most prominent members of the Steelers 1996 draft class
2002, OG Kendall Simmons – Stepped right up and started as a rookie, but multiple injuries and diabetes really limited his ability to reach his potential. Again, Antwan Randal El, Chris Hope, Larry Foote, and Brett Keisel at least equaled if not surpassed his contribution as a member of the Steelers 2002 draft class.
2007, P Daniel Sepulveda – We still don’t know much about Sepulveda, but Larwence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley are clearly now more important to the team than he is.

They Budded into Super Stars

1984, WR Louis Lipps — He gave John Stallworth a second wind. Perhaps he wasn’t a “Great” receiver, coming of age during the days of Jerry Rice, but still a very, very good player.
1989, SS Carnell Lake — One of the true gems from the Steelers 1989 draft class. Saved not one but two seasons by moving from safety to corner. An all around great player and class-act
1993, LB Chad Brown — When Jerry Olsavsky got hurt against Cleveland, heads turned when Reggie Barnes went in instead of Brown. But Brown started quickly thereafter, and distinguished himself on a group of linebackers that included Kevin Greene, Greg Lloyd, and Levon Kirkland.
1998, OG Alan Faneca – And all around anchor to the Steelers offensive line for a decade.
2000, FB Dan Kreider – Sure, he never went to a Pro Bowl or was selected to an All-Start team, but he was the best blocking fullback in his days, giving Pittsburgh the equivalent of a 6th offensive lineman on the field.
2003, S Troy Polamalu – We’ve all seen the hell the Steelers defense has gone through in his absence.
2004, QB Ben Roethlisberger – Doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves, but anyone who doubts his greatness need only click here and scroll down a bit to see proof of his greatness.
2005, TE Heath Miller – He’s always been a great blocking and catching tight end, and how he has the numbers to back it up. Heath is quiet, but he gets the job done.
2006, WR Santonio Holmes – He still has yet to be consistent enough to be considered a dominating wide out, but his skills are superb and he is dependable.

It says here that the odds favor Mike Wallace carving a place for himself in the latter group. However, we would have said the same about Kendrell Bell with even more certainty….

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