In a revealing interview done by Tribune-Review reporter Ralph N. Paulk, Mike Wallace tries to mask his displeasure in the role he's being asked to play in the Steelers offense.
In an interview done by Tribune-Review reporter Ralph N. Paulk, Wallace alludes to a lack of focus in explaining his lack of production over the last four games (13 catches, 91 yards, 30 targets).
"I've never been a guy who dropped balls or just lose focus," Wallace said somewhat apologetically. "The first three years I was always involved, so you just warmed up in games, and you were just into it.
"But when you don't get the ball for two-and-half quarters, you lose focus. But that's the type of offense this is. We're spreading it around, so you're not going to get as many targets. When you get them, you have to make the best of them."
To summarize, he didn't lose focus when he claimed to be "always involved," isn't currently getting the ball for two-and-a-half quarters, and doesn't get as many targets as he thinks he used to.
He had 113 targets through 16 games last season - 7.06 targets per game. Through 12 games this year, he has 93 targets, 7.75 targets per game.
He's lost two fumbles this year, compared to one last year (incidentally, his lone fumble last season came in a 23-20 loss to Baltimore, the opponent of one of his fumbles this season).
An increase in targets is apparently making him less focused, but the offense is spreading it around, giving him less targets - even though that statement is categorically false.
Apparently, it's about frequency, not quantity, of those targets.
"When I don't get the ball for a certain amount of time, I lose focus sometimes," he said. "It hurts me when it's time for me to make a play."
Even the best spin doctors on earth would struggle to defend that statement. There was plenty of time for Wallace to make a play against Baltimore in what could end up being a critically important loss for the Steelers as they basically have to win out and/or hope Cincinnati cools off from a four-game winning streak. He fumbled the ball after a third-and-10 reception, giving the Ravens excellent field position, from which they scored three points.
Not coincidentally, Wallace was targeted five times - the second-lowest amount he's been targeted this season - against the Giants in Week 9, but his 51-yard catch-and-run touchdown was the highlight of the game and a huge part of the Steelers' come-from-behind win.
He didn't seem to need to get the ball on a frequent and consistent basis to make an impact then. Not to mention the fact he was targeted three times on the Steelers' final two drives against the Ravens in Week 13.
He is certainly right, though, about the issue here being focus. He's focusing on the wrong things. It may help Wallace to know in his last 22 games including the playoffs, he's caught 91 passes on 166 targets (54.8 percent) for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns.
Those averages boiled into a 16-game season would give him 66 catches, 803 yards and seven touchdowns.
It's absolutely ridiculous for him to suggest, insinuate or passive-aggressively imply he's not getting the ball enough. The 124 targets he's on pace to get in 2012 would have put him in the top 15 in the NFL in 2011, but the fact is, since his 118 yard performance against Arizona in Week 7 of the 2011 season, he has one game (out of 22) with more than 100 yards. That was his 123 yard performance against Oakland in Week 3 of this season.
"The toughest thing is staying positive through three quarters because you're not going to get the ball every time," Wallace said as the team prepares to face San Diego on Sunday at Heinz Field. "You have to be ready to deliver when it comes your way. That's been the biggest thing I've had to learn this year."
Let's mentally side-step the fact Wallace is saying he was unaware of his responsibility of being prepared to make a play every time he's thrown the ball, and focus on how he seems to feel 75 percent of the game isn't worth his effort. Granted, there's more of a sense of urgency in the fourth quarter, but a touchdown reception counts for six points regardless of the quarter.
"If there's been a play that I haven't made this year, it's been in the second or third quarter when I haven't been getting too many passes ... and I'm losing focus. I get a little frustrated, and that's the main thing."
In other words, give the crying baby his bottle.
It's unfortunate for Wallace that he's required to focus for all of 60 game minutes each week, and needless to say, he still cannot explain the bizarre phenomenon of him getting nearly eight passes a game in which to make a play. If he chooses to live in a world in which that isn't enough to get him focused, then ok, but I'd love to hear how he defends that at the negotiation table next season when he and his agent will attempt to dupe an equally successful team with a great quarterback and an offense willing to give him 120 or more targets into roughly $30 million guaranteed.