Missing the mark on Mike Wallace criticism

Joe Sargent

Steelers fans don't like Mike Wallace, but despite the lack of understanding from at least one writer, the reasons are pretty obvious and simple as to why the resentment exists.

I'm not sure about anyone else, but I sure am loving Yahoo! Sports' shift toward the work of amateurs with the subtle warning of "COMMENTARY" at the beginning of the column.

The most recent contribution from Sheldon Rodgers is an incredulous look at (surprise, surprise) Mike Wallace, and his perspective of why Steelers fans are quick to dismiss him as quickly as he dismissed the Steelers.

Mr. Rodgers seems to miss the point entirely.

Tunnel vision on the topic would lead one to make claims like he is making, so to that extent, it's understandable. Since we're here, and I'm six hours from getting out of the town for the weekend, let's make this loud and clear for anyone who's curious.

Steelers fans don't hate Mike Wallace because of his production. Steelers fans are upset with Wallace because the team offered him the largest contract in team history, and instead of taking it and becoming one of the most productive receivers in team history, he rejected it, then didn't show up to any of the team's practices, including training camp, in 2012.

Then, he put up his worst statistical year of his career.

Mr. Rodgers re-states Wallace's stats:

We're talking about a player that has 32 touchdown receptions in those four seasons, with 4,042 yards and an average yards per catch of 17.2.

Fans don't look at just stats.

Perhaps the Steelers fans he's spoken to aren't aware of these, but that's a slim minority and an inaccurate sampling. Again, the fact his 2012 statistics fell considerably under those totals (64 catches, 836 yards, 13.1 yards per catch, eight touchdowns) combined with the fact he turned down a huge contract offer and took the summer off while his teammates were working together (learning a new offense) cannot be ignored.

No one said Steeler Nation was fair, but the fact is Wallace made his bed long before Steelers fans started booing him. Considering the amount of money he got, it's hard to say there wasn't wisdom in his decision to turn the Steelers down, but are fans supposed to support his decision to play for $60 million instead of the paltry $50 million he was reportedly offered?

Excuse me for not rushing to his defense.

Rodgers does defend Wallace's hands, though, pointing out his six drops

And even if he had double-digit drops, he would be in the company of Jimmy Graham, Victor Cruz, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall. That is not bad company to be in.

Those receivers had, respectively, 135, 143, 205 and 194 targets. Wallace had 119. While I agree Wallace's hands haven't been so much of an issue (drops are only counted when a player makes an effort on a ball), I don't think any reasonably-minded fan who follows the NFL would even begin to make an argument they'd rather throw to Wallace over any of the wide receivers on that list (what Graham has to do with Wallace is beyond me).

Plus, I can't help but notice fumbles aren't included in his argument.

Maybe Wallace's lower target total has something to do with the fact he had a hamstring injury in Week 17 and couldn't play. I'd question Wallace's heart at this point, but...you get what I'm saying. What I mean is there's no reason to question Wallace missing the first game of his career because his team was out of the playoff hunt and he was about to hit the free agency market. Something like that would just never happen.

The crowning achievement of the column is this line.

While (Antonio) Brown is an excellent player, it is not true to say that he is better than Wallace. Maybe 2013 is the year that Brown shows me otherwise, but the truest thing I can say about all of this is that Pittsburgh was better off having both Wallace and Brown, and they are certainly not a better team now that Wallace is gone, at least not on the field.

"Better" is a relative term. Sure, Wallace has deep speed, no one argues that. Does that fully encapsulate the wide receiver position? Brown has made big plays in his own right, has special teams ability and has produced at a high level in his career to date.

Find me one person who'd rather throw to Wallace over the middle than Brown. Maybe some would, but even having to think about that answer shows Wallace is not Jerry Rice to Brown's Fred Gibson.

Still, it's difficult to see what point he's making, considering the Steelers offered Wallace a contract, one that Wallace declined. It's not as if the Steelers didn't see his value. The issue is, has been and will continue to be the fact he didn't want to sign with the Steelers, put up his worst season per target after he skipped minicamp, training camp and the preseason.

If it isn't clear why people would tend to take an anti-Mike-Wallace stance after that, I don't know what else you'd need to see it. What I do know is if you exclude all of these reasons, as well as the fact there is no direct correlation between winning Super Bowls and having Mike Wallace on your team, then yes, I can concede fans are wrong for not liking him.


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