Dolphins vs. Steelers: Welcome to Wallace Week

Mike Ehrmann

It's likely Dolphins WR Mike Wallace is among the least liked players in the NFL, if you ask Steelers fans to rate him. He and his new team are fresh off a win against the Jets, and head to Pittsburgh in Week 14 for a playoff-like game against the Steelers.

If not by the Steelers' players, then their Week 14 game was circled on the calendar by Steelers' fans many months ago.

Perhaps some saw it as a potential late-season showdown with playoff implications, as the Steelers' Week 14 game against the Miami Dolphins no doubt is (the Dolphins, at 6-6, lead the Steelers by one game in the playoff race). More than likely, though, fans eagerly anticipated the return of the Prodigious Son.

Wide receiver Mike Wallace received the largest contract ever given to a player leaving Pittsburgh, signing with the Dolphins very quickly into free agency this past March. Wallace's deal gave him $30 million guaranteed on a five-year deal worth a total of $60 million. That $30 million is guaranteed in the first three years of the deal.

Through 12 games, Wallace has 56 catches for 743 yards and three touchdowns. His 13.3 yards per catch average is more than four yards shy of his career average.

Wallace was said to have turned down a lesser offer made by the Steelers before the 2012 season in hopes of hitting the jackpot in free agency after the season. It's hard to argue with his success in that regard, but many believed Wallace's falloff in production in his final year in Pittsburgh was due to less deep passing under then first-year offensive coordinator Todd Haley. It appears Wallace will have a more productive season in Miami than his last one in Pittsburgh, but only nominally. He's projected to finish with 75 catches (on 140 targets), 991 yards and four touchdowns.

Last year, Wallace had, in 15 games (he had a hamstring injury before Pittsburgh's meaningless Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns), Wallace had 836 yards on 64 catches with eight touchdowns.

The Dolphins are struggling quite a bit in protecting their quarterback, and that includes their quarterback's inability to protect himself. Ryan Tannehill - whom Wallace raved about this offseason having a better arm than Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. He's been sacked 45 times this season, the most of any passer in the NFL.

It's a chicken vs. the egg argument when trying to assign blame for the Dolphins' offensive struggles, but top to bottom, the mega-bucks signing of Wallace has only led to minimal improvements on the offensive side of the ball, and while that improvement is three points a game, it went from 18 in 2012 to 21 this season.

Wallace will likely claim having had better days in Miami than the 2013 season when it's all said and done. For now, the Steelers have something of a grudge match against their former teammate on the field he earned the big money contract he now has.

Add in the drama of a playoff atmosphere, it should make for an exciting game.

Even if the animosity will come mostly from the fans instead of the players.

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