Wallace, Steelers Seek Redemption

Mike Wallace is in position to make up for the Steelers' early-season loss to the Ravens tonight in Baltimore.

Once the officials (and the league) allowed the Steelers to keep their overtime win over the Buffalo Bills last week, Mike Wallace got around to feeling bad for Steve Johnson.

Not that Wallace has ever dropped a game-winning touchdown pass – or would admit to ever dropping one – as Johnson had, but Wallace could empathize with the Bills' WR anyway.

"I play receiver, so I can imagine what it's like to be in that situation," Wallace said. "Thankfully – (knocks on wood) – I've never been in that situation. But I'm pretty sure he's hurting bad and can't wait to get back out there and make up for it."

Wallace, the Steelers' second-year deep threat, has experienced something similar, and tonight he gets his shot at redemption.

In the first meeting against the Baltimore Ravens this season, Wallace had the go-ahead touchdown pass in his hands, in the end zone, in the fourth quarter, but it was yanked away by cornerback Lardarius Webb.

Webb was the same cornerback who'd swatted away a slightly underthrown deep ball to Wallace only two plays earlier in that fourth quarter, and was the same cornerback who'd covered the speedy Wallace on two other incomplete deep balls thrown by quarterback Charlie Batch late in the third quarter.

Webb had been injured last season – his rookie season – and even earlier this season, so his performance in beating Wallace and the Steelers that day begged the question:

Do the Ravens have a cornerback capable of doing what no other cornerback had done previously? Can Webb run with and cover Wallace?

"He can't cover me," Wallace said after that game. "He was 13 yards off me before the ball was even snapped. He's a smart guy, and he made a nice play the one time the ball was right in my hands, so I'm 0-1 against him, but I'll be looking to even things up next time. I'm thinking he'd better get ready."

That was then, and Wallace has this to say now:

"I don't feel like he can stop me," Wallace said a few days before tonight's showdown for AFC North supremacy. "I don't feel like he can cover me. We'll see this week."

It's very likely that we will see, because Wallace figures to play a prominent role in the Steelers' game plan.

With Ben Roethlisberger limping on an injured right foot, the Steelers will likely put their quarterback in the shotgun and spread the run-stuffing Ravens' defense with multiple receivers. And Wallace would be the ideal gamebreaker against a Ravens secondary that's most vulnerable wide with starting cornerbacks Chris Carr and Josh Wilson and nickelbacks Webb and Fabian Washington.

Washington, at 5 feet 11, is the tallest of the group, but as the No. 4 CB he's certainly not their best, as evidenced by his healthy scratch last Sunday.

However, the Ravens will have free safety Ed Reed patrolling over the top. The future Hall of Famer missed the first game against the Steelers, but was activated off the PUP list five games ago and already has four interceptions. His 50 career interceptions are second among active players behind 35-year-old Darren Sharper.

Reed, at 31, hasn't lost a step.

"He looks like he never left," said Wallace.

"He's one of the best players – physically, instinctually, everything – that I've ever played against," said Roethlisberger.

Yet, with Reed the last five games, the Ravens' numbers against the pass haven't improved much, and in some cases have gotten worse.

With Reed, the Ravens have allowed: 58.9 percent of passes completed, 6.3 yards per attempt, and a 76.1 passer rating. They're 4-1 in those games.

Without Reed: 57.9 percent completed, 5.7 yards per attempt, 76.5 passer rating, 4-2 record.

In his career, Reed has played 13 games against the Steelers and has 3 interceptions and 4 additional passes defensed. The Ravens are 6-7 with Reed against the Steelers.

But, Reed and the Ravens haven't defeated the Steelers with Roethlisberger at quarterback in four tries since 2006, when Reed had his only interception of Roethlisberger.

Overall, Reed has defensed only 3 passes thrown by Roethlisberger in eight games.

Of course, Reed has never played against Roethlisberger when the quarterback's been relegated to playing with only one good foot. And Reed has only seen bits of Wallace, the receiver who'll be sprinting down the sideline in an attempt to run under those fly balls off the quarterback's third step.

"He was pretty much going with Santonio [Holmes] last year," said Wallace. "But I'm pretty sure he'll have his eye on me this time, and I'm up for the challenge. He's a great player. He's a guy I watched before I got here. He's an NFL guy I've always looked up to, so it's going to be a pretty exciting matchup on Sunday."


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