No Love For Red Hot Wallace ... Yet

No matter what Steelers receiver Mike Wallace does, it doesn't seem to be enough for his coaches. Wallace enjoys the motivational ploys anyway.

PITTSBURGH – Four weeks ago, Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was asked whether he might give his famous "one-trick pony," Mike Wallace, a few extra deep passes to help Wallace celebrate his homecoming game in New Orleans.

"He needs to start taking some shorter ones to the house," said Arians.

Wallace didn't get around to doing that until the Steelers beat the Oakland Raiders a few days ago.

On the first play of the fourth quarter Sunday, Wallace somehow found himself running with a linebacker in coverage just past the line of scrimmage. So Ben Roethlisberger threw him a little 3-yard pass that Wallace turned into a 52-yard touchdown.

How's that for being a one-trick pony?

Mike Tomlin has called Wallace the nickname ever since he saw him run under his first deep pass with the Steelers. But after the catch-and-run against Oakland, Tomlin was asked if he might begin calling Wallace by another nickname.

"Not yet," said Tomlin. "He's going to have to show me more than that play he showed me on Sunday."

A reporter relayed to Tomlin that Wallace had suggested after the game he be called "Bag of Tricks."

"He's got a lot of suggestions," Tomlin said. "I suggest that he prepare for the Buffalo Bills."

No love. Not even for one of the hottest wide receivers in the game.

In the last three games, Wallace has caught 16 passes for 362 yards (22.6 average) and 4 touchdowns. By comparison, the NFL's receiving rage of the moment, Santonio Holmes of the New York Jets, has 17 catches for 316 yards (18.6) and 3 touchdowns during the same span.

Of course, Holmes has made game-winning plays in each of those three games. Last week, his 6-yard touchdown catch with 10 seconds left beat the Houston Texans. The previous week his 37-yard touchdown catch with 16 seconds left in overtime beat the Cleveland Browns. And in the game prior to that, Holmes's 52-yard catch in overtime set up the field goal that beat the Detroit Lions.

Wallace has made all four of his touchdown catches in the fourth quarter, but he hasn't done it at crunch time like the guy he replaced in the Steelers' lineup this season.

Wallace, of course, knows about Holmes's recent heroics.

"That's my guy. I love Tone, so I'm always watching him," Wallace said. "We're always texting and calling each other, so we stay in touch all the time. I'm happy for him."

And the Steelers are happy for Wallace. They dealt Holmes and promoted Wallace from the No. 3 WR spot to the starting split end position that Holmes had held for 3-plus seasons.

Wallace has responded by catching 6 touchdown passes of 40 yards or more and by becoming the first Steelers receiver since Hines Ward in 2005 to put together three consecutive 100-yard games. If Wallace does either of the above on Sunday in Buffalo, he'll have a team record.

In fact, Wallace only needs 5 more touchdown catches in the final 6 games to set a team record with 13 touchdown catches in a season.

Is the second-year player even aware he's approaching these records?

"Not really," he said. "I don't pay attention to that. I just play football. Those things will come when you're doing well, so I just try to do well."

With 33 catches at a league-leading average of 23.0 per catch, Wallace clearly is doing well. So, why does Tomlin insist on the derisive nickname? Is it simply a motivational ploy?

"Mike's still young. To be doing all the great things he's doing at a young age is amazing," said Hines Ward. "But you guys don't see all the stuff we could get better on: the route running, the getting in and out of cuts. The more he develops, the better he's going to make everybody because it's going to be very hard to defend him when he's running underneath stuff like that."

"He's just been calling me that so long that he's going to continue," said Wallace. "But that's cool as tea. Hey, I'm with it. I like that. It just presents a challenge for me every week to go out and prove him wrong. If that's what he has to do to make me a better player, that's what it is. I don't have a problem with him saying it. I hope to change it. Eventually he will, because I'm going to continue to strive and do different things with my game."


Steel City Insider Top Stories