By Jeremy Hritz
Lamont Wade was a superstar in Western PA high school football, shining brightly as he led his Clairton Bears to WPIAL Championships and a state title in Class A. In high school, he not only played in the defensive backfield, but he also was the Bears featured runner, racking up yardage and touchdowns and serving as a catalyst for the success and dominance for his team. He rushed for over 7000 yards in his career and set a WPIAL touchdown record, as Clairton went 51-5 during his tenure with the team. He took his talents to Penn State where he began as a cornerback before ultimately transitioning to the position of safety where he played from his sophomore through senior season. While nowhere near as decorated a career at PSU as high school, Wade has been signed by the Steelers to compete for depth at a safety position that is very thin.
Wade is not the biggest in stature at 5’9, 190 pounds, but he clocked in a 4.47 40 at his pro day, in addition to 16 reps of 225 on the bench. While a compact build, everything within his frame is strong and athletic, making his potential worthy of exploration in camp with the Steelers.
Wade is also physical, unafraid to mix it up in the running game, and he often played close to the line of scrimmage in Happy Valley to defend the run. Will deliver the smack when balanced and centered on his target and has demonstrated an ability to blitz effectively when called upon. This could be an asset in a Steelers’ defensive scheme that values the blitzing abilities of defensive backs.
What Wade must overcome to stick with the Steelers is his struggles in coverage, as there is collegiate tape of shortcomings against the passing game. He has the natural speed to do so, but must hone his instincts and reactions to the nuances of quarterback and receiver keys so his response puts him in the optimal position to make a play. Currently, he functions better in a zone scheme than man, so he will need to sharpen his man coverage abilities.
Some will also argue that Wade is too small of a prospect and that his diminutive stature will preclude him from being a professional baller; however, he is intense, fiery, and driven, and a player with such natural passion cannot ever be ruled out. Size may get someone in an NFL door, but heart keeps the door open, and Wade has plenty of heart. Bottom line, Wade has a shot.
The depth chart at safety presents an opportunity to Lamont Wade, and clearly, the Steelers believe there is something worth exploring in his game by signing him as an UDRFA. Contributing on special teams early, quickly picking up the defense, and going all out on every play will give Wade every opportunity to create an opportunity for himself as in the defense. Growing up in Western PA and living the football culture at Clairton, Wade knows the Steelers tradition better than anyone, and that may give him an edge other undrafted free agents don’t have.
Nothing would make for a hometown player to come back home to where it all started.