Mike Wallace was the Steelers third-round draft pick in 2009, a wide receiver that showed promise and excitement for his insane speed and route-running ability. It has been no secret that the once productive Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver has struggled since leaving the organization. After two unproductive years with the Miami Dolphins and a trade that landed him with the Minnesota Vikings last season, now Wallace is a member of the Baltimore Ravens. He hopes to showcase his skills as he once did with Pittsburgh.
The Steelers face the Baltimore Ravens twice a year in the regular season and quarterback Joe Flacco hopes to use his newly acquired receiver in the deep passing attack. During his time in Pittsburgh, Wallace performed well earning 1,257 yards in 2010, 1,193 yards in 2011, but saw quite a drop in yards during his time with the Dolphins and Vikings. A question going into the 2016 offseason is whether or not Mike Wallace is going to be a threat against the Pittsburgh Steelers' secondary. While the Steelers were ranked 30th in passing yards allowed in 2015, some recent struggles with Wallace's route-running and catching abilities will be showcased below.
This article will mainly focus on Wallace and how much of a non-factor he has been while on the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings. It will also focus on how we would probably not see a change in his development while he is a member of the Baltimore Ravens.
Simple drop on out route
During a key divisional matchup against the Green Bay Packers, Wallace struggled early in the first quarter as he dropped a wide open third-down out route. Not only was the route not run too well on his part, but he dropped an open opportunity for a first down. Wallace was often called a "one trick pony" by Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh as a form of motivation, and part of that was because he never mastered his routes on the team and relied on his pure speed to get him open for Roethlisberger to find.
In his time with the Minnesota Vikings, Wallace only had 39 catches for 473 yards and two touchdowns, undoubtedly his worst season. His decline did not start in Minnesota however, as his falling out in Miami led to him being traded away.
Speed is there, catching ability struggles at times
If the Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is looking for a player that can get past defenders, Mike Wallace is the perfect athlete. Even though he is 29 years of age, he continues to showcase his top asset: speed.
In a game against the Carolina Panthers in 2013, the Dolphins needed a quick touchdown down by four with 18 seconds left. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill went to speedster Mike Wallace who got past the safety but dropped a contested pass that hit him squarely in the hands, a play which surely would have won the game.
Wallace has always been able to get behind defenders, but his problem comes when they challenge him on a jump ball. He does not always fail, but his past performance, even while in Pittsburgh, is not promising. Still, these are the types of receivers which Joe Flacco has worked with in the past and have flourished in Baltimore's system.
Extreme speed can be dangerous
All things considered, by no means should the Steelers or any NFL opponent ever sleep on Mike Wallace going deep. Joe Flacco is a big-armed quarterback that loves the deep ball and Wallace's speed will still be an asset for him if he can get open behind secondaries.
Wallace gets behind Captain Munnerlyn with ease and had Ryan Tannehill thrown a better ball, he probably would have scored a touchdown. Tannehill and Bridgewater were the two quarterbacks Wallace had to work with in his past three seasons, both of which lack the reputation as dangerous deep passing quarterbacks compared to the likes of Roethlisberger and Flacco.
Keep Wallace in front of the defense
The key to neutralizing Mike Wallace will be to force him to be a consistent receiver at making underneath receptions instead of deep passes that allow him to make uncontested or even slightly contested plays. Wallace can also take off with the ball in his hands if a lane is open, but solid defense that forces him to make catch after catch for the Ravens to move downfield will make him have to be a more consistent receiver than he has been for the past few seasons and give the Steelers a better chance at taking away a weapon that Baltimore added in free agency.