By Teresa Varley
One of the biggest changes from college to the NFL for rookie Mike Wallace is the way that the wide receivers are asked to block in the Steelers offensive scheme.
At Mississippi he had blocking assignments, but nothing like what he is called upon to do with the Steelers. And he has some work to do to get things right. Coach Mike Tomlin said that Wallace "looks like a rookie as a blocker" and it is something that the third-round draft pick definitely wants to focus more on.
"It's not a skill, it's just a want to," said Wallace of blocking. "I just have to go out there and block. I will make it happen this week. I just have to get my technique right. It's something I can do, it's not hard. I take tips from Hines (Ward) all day every day. I am going to improve and hopefully I get better this week."
There isn't a receiver out there in the NFL who has perfected blocking the way Ward has, so he makes sure he stays on Wallace and lets him know what the keys are.
"Blocking is wanting to. There isn't anything I can teach," said Ward. "You either want to do it or you don't. He is coming along. The importance of blocking in this offense is more than in other place. Here we emphasize it. He is having a better understanding of that.
"At this place you can't just catch, you have to block as well. Mike is playing the 'Z' position. You have to deal with the strong safety and bigger guys. He wants to go deep and catch the bombs, but we have to block when we run the ball and the like."
Ward stays on Wallace, letting him know the importance of blocking and getting on him when he misses a block.
"If I miss a block he will say, 'See we are all in this together. You can't miss your block because that will let another man down,'" said Wallace. "He tells me we are in this together and I just have to do my blocking because the others block for us when we get the ball so we have to block for them."
Dennis Dixon is smiling now, but that wasn't the case after the Steelers-Redskins game when he suffered a shoulder injury late.
"I was really down the most then. It was real depressing," said Dixon. "I am glad to have good teammates to lead me in the right direction, keep my head up. That went a long way as far as my teammates being behind me."
Dixon is frustrated with the injury, which will keep him out of Saturday's preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.
"It's mind boggling that it happened, but it's a little bump in the road," said Dixon. "It could be worse. I just have to continue to get healthy. I just have to get better in the process, stay as mentally focused as I can and do the things I can as far as rehab, getting on the bike, my cardio and all. Once I get the chance to throw again I will be ready."
Jason Capizzi is in a battle for a back-up tackle position with Tony Hills and Jeremy Parquet, a battle that has had its up and downs for the third-year player from the Pittsburgh area.
"I have my days when they look at me like what the heck were you thinking and then I have my days when they are like that is the best thing I have ever seen," said Capizzi. "I have to be more consistent. I have to do it their way, the way they want, where they want you to be. I have to make sure I use the right technique. There is a lot of stuff going on. I am just trying to go out there and do it the way they want and be more consistent."
Capizzi is hoping that by achieving that consistency and showing he can be trusted to block in both the running and passing game, he will be able to nail down a spot on the roster when the final cuts come on September 5.
"I want that more than any other person here," said Capizzi. "I want it more than any person here in this building."