Earlier this week, the Baltimore Ravens' newly acquired wide receiver, Mike Wallace, stated that he sees himself as a better player now than he has ever been, and that includes his four year term with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2009-2012.
Since Wallace's departure from Pittsburgh for free agency he has played for the Miami Dolphins and the Minnesota Vikings. His best season in the three years he's played outside of Pittsburgh came in 2014 with the Dolphins when he took 67 receptions for 862 yards and ten touchdowns with Ryan Tannehill at their quarterback position.
We take a look at some of his better highlights while playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Blazing 95-yard TD
In 2011 the Steelers were up against an improving Arizona Cardinals team in University of Phoenix Stadium. On a day when more Steelers fans would fill the arena than Cardinals fans, the Steelers took over the game. Ben Roethlisberger knew that despite being pinned inside the ten yard line, the offense had a weapon that could get behind any secondary in Wallace. That's when Roethlisberger sent Wallace on a fly route and hit him in stride after blowing past Antonio Cromartie for a touchdown to break the game open.
To this day this is both Wallace's and Roethlisberger's career long touchdown (Roethlisberger almost tied it with his 94 yard touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant in 2014) and the longest touchdown pass in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was at this game and remember getting chills when I saw the ball in the air and nobody in front of Wallace. Before the ball was even caught I stood up screaming "THAT'S A TOUCHDOWN!!!!" To the dismay of the few Cardinals fans who were actually in our section.
2010 was his best season
In 2010, Wallace would take 60 receptions for 1257 yards and ten touchdowns, setting career highs in both yards and touchdowns in a single season for himself. In just his second year out of Ole Miss, Wallace had made himself a premier weapon in the NFL that teams had to take notice of at all times for the simple fact that he could get behind your defense in the blink of an eye and if given a lane to attack could explode through it.
Pittsburgh fans could not be more excited about the second year player's performance after being drafted in the third round with the plays he was making. He added an extra dimension to the Steelers offense that took up for the speed it lost when Santonio Holmes was traded away after the 2009 season and there was a lot of hope for the young receiver to continue to develop his skills with a quarterback like Roethlisberger to throw him the ball.
Maybe his biggest touchdown ever
Wallace had a solid rookie season in the NFL as well, scoring six touchdowns and gaining 756 yards despite sharing the field with Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes in what would be an off year for the Steelers who would miss the playoffs for the first time in Mike Tomlin's tenure as head coach. Wallace already had a 60 yard touchdown earlier this game that put the Steelers ahead, but his work was not finished until the Steelers absolutely needed him.
The reigning Super Bowl champions needed to win this game to stay in the playoff hunt during week 15 of the 2009-2010 NFL season against the Green Bay Packers. After leading the Steelers down the field, Roethlisberger only had one play left and needed a touchdown to win the game. Wallace proved to be up to the task with a posted up back shoulder touchdown catch with his feet perfectly in bounds to tie the game and set Shaun Suisham up for the game winning extra point. The catch would comparisons from Joe Buck and Troy Aikman of this catch to Santonio Holmes game winning touchdown in Super Bowl 43.
If Mike Wallace is better now, he has a lot of showing to do
Wallace has yet to post a season with 1,000 yards since he left Pittsburgh and has definitely suffered a hit to his reputation since he has not played with Roethlisberger. Mike Tomlin jokingly used to refer to Wallace as a "one-trick pony," a moniker that Wallace never shook during his time in Pittsburgh as he was known simply for his blazing speed and not for running great routes or broadening his game enough to earn the respect that Antonio Brown has gotten today.
Still, Wallace drew national attention during his time in Pittsburgh and was Roethlisberger's favorite target for three seasons between 2010 and 2012. Though Wallace was never the player that Brown has become, he still was brought up in conversations as the NFL's best wide receiver and even drew comparisons to the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson at times. Since he's left Pittsburgh, Wallace has never been regarded nearly as high as those days.
While Wallace did not pan out as the career for the receiver for Pittsburgh, he certainly got his contract when Miami signed him for a super deal that was way more than the Steelers would ever pay. And Pittsburgh found its man in Antonio Brown who took a five year deal and has become the undisputed best wide receiver in the NFL. While Wallace may have picked up a few extra skills since he has left, it certainly has not shown on the field.
When Brown was beneath Wallace on the depth chart, it was because Wallace was making plays for the offense and being regarded as one of the best players in the league. Since Wallace has left, the only time you bring up him and Antonio Brown in the same sentence is to talk about the days they used to play together.