LATROBE, Pa.--Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace will be in the spotlight this season. As a second-year player, Wallace is starting for the first time after the offseason trade of former teammate Santonio Holmes.
But Pittsburgh's confidence in Wallace is justified. As a rookie, he recorded 39 receptions for 756 yards and six touchdowns as the team's No. 3 receiver. Now he's stepping into a bigger role, starting opposite of Hines Ward.
The AFC North blog recently picked Wallace as its 2010 pick for breakout player in the division. On Saturday, Wallace shared his thoughts with the AFC North blog on this upcoming season.
Camp just started, but I know your 24th birthday is Sunday. Any plans?
Mike Wallace: (laughs) Thank you, I appreciate that. I just want to have a good day at practice and give myself a good treat by not getting yelled at [by the coaches]. That's my plans. I want to come out and have a good practice. I've been in football camp on my birthday the last, maybe four or five years. So I kind of got the short end of the stick when it comes down to birthdays. But I'm doing something I love to do, so it's not too bad.
What's next for Mike Wallace? What are your expectations this year?
MW: I'm trying to be the best. I'm trying to go to the Pro Bowl this year. I'm in a new role. So why not start now? Why wait?
Do you feel you have huge shoes to fill with Santonio Holmes leaving?
MW: He's a great player and it is big shoes to fill for the simple fact that he's a Super Bowl MVP. That's not easy to replace. But I'm up for the challenge.
In what areas are you better this year than your rookie year?
MW: My routes. That's the main thing that I've focused on. I've never had problems dropping the ball or getting open. It's just how much separation can I get. So technique is the main thing in the game, and that's what I'm trying to get down. I'm taking it in from all the good guys like Hines [Ward], Heath [Miller], Santonio when he was here, [Antwaan] Randle El, [Arnaz] Battle, all the guys. I'm in a new role, but I'm still looking to learn every day.
How good can this offense be during quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's suspension?
MW: We can still be great. We have a lot of players on our team. Our defense is great, but we're still looking to put up fireworks without Ben. We're trying to win ballgames. Ben is a great player, so obviously it's going to hurt us when he's not here. But we have a lot of other great players on our team and people will have to step up. That's why we play. Just like with Santonio gone, I have to step up. With Ben not playing, Byron, Dennis or Charlie will have to step up. Everybody has to be ready to go.