By Teresa Varley
Steelers.com Wide receiver Mike Wallace has made a huge impact his rookie season, emerging as the team's third receiver and giving Ben Roethlisberger a speedy weapon.
That is why he was selected by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America as the 2009 recipient of the Joe Greene Great Performance Award, presented to the team's rookie of the year.
Wallace, who played collegiately at Mississippi, was one of the team's third round draft picks this year, taken with the 84th overall pick.
"Coming into the mini-camp we had a lot of guys," said Wallace. "I just believed in myself, hoping for an opportunity. I just thank the organization for giving me the opportunity to get in and play, believing I can make the plays. It's a great honor to be out there."
Wallace ranks fourth on the team with 37 receptions for 692 yards through 15 games, an 18.7-yard average.
"I just have confidence in what I can do. I know what type of player I am," said Wallace. "I have all of the confidence in the world in my abilities. If somebody is giving me the opportunity to get out there when we have all of those guys, I am not trying to give it back. I am taking advantage of it. That's just the main thing. I never have been the type of guy who wants to sit around and watch. I like to play in a game, be in a game and make an impact. That is my main thing, not wanting to sit on the side."
His biggest impact came in an exciting 37-36 win over the Green Bay Packers at Heinz Field, when he had only two receptions in the game, but made them count as both were touchdowns, including a game-winner with no time left on the clock.
"He made plays when given the opportunity, not that he's had a bunch of opportunities and sometimes, it's like that," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "It's about what you do with them when you get them."
Wallace also had a stellar outing against the Baltimore Ravens, with three receptions for 83 yards, including a key 45-yard reception on a third-and-two that eventually led to a Santonio Holmes touchdown reception.
"He's done a great job every week," said Roethlisberger. "He keeps impressing. He keeps getting better, and like I said the sky is the limit for him."
Considering that Wallace readily admits he still has a lot to learn, his future is definitely bright.
"I know I have a long way to go," said Wallace. "I am just trying to learn from Hines (Ward) and Santonio (Holmes). I am going to get a lot better in the offseason."
James Farrior is one to never shy away from a question, in good times and bad, including this year when the team was going through a five-game losing streak.
That is why the veteran linebacker was named the 2009 recipient of the Chief Award, presented annually by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America to the member of the Steelers' organization who best exemplifies the spirit of cooperation with the media, which was established in honor of Steelers founder, Arthur J. Rooney, Sr.
"It was tough," said Farrior, who said he was honored to win an award named after Art Rooney, Sr. "This year was probably the toughest year as far as dealing with the media. We haven't been in a situation like this, losing five games around here since I have been here. It was something we weren't used to but I understand dealing with the media is part of our business. It's something we are obligated to do. I felt like I had to do it.
"I have been around this league for a long time and I understand you have to take the good with the bad. This year we had more bad than we normally have."
Farrior, who is in his 13th season in the NFL and eighth with the Steelers, leads the team in tackles with 114 and has added three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He also has one interception on the season, which came in the Steelers 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday and lead to the game's first field goal.
Farrior, who signed an extension that keeps him with the team through 2012, is one of the defensive co-captains and said that has given him a greater sense of responsibility in dealing with the media.
"I feel that is one of the things my job entails as one of the captains," said Farrior. "You have to be able to take the tough times and talk to the people when you don't really want to. With our situation the way it was this year I definitely felt obligated to do it for the team, ownership and everybody in the locker room."