It might be a bit presumptuous, but the majority of Steeler Nation is probably happy to see Mike Wallace pack up and leave for Miami. Where the team actually stands on the matter is another story. They’ve stayed fairly quite since Wallace’s departure, but Ben Roethlisberger spoke up on Friday. He spoke highly of his former teammate and said that the Steelers are going to ‘miss him.’
Mike is really focused on becoming a better receiver. So he’s focused on his route running. He’s focused on running out-routes, and curl-routes, and in-routes and doing all the little things that’s required to become a great wide receiver. That’s why he, to me, is one of the best in the league, because he not only has that speed – he can run by anybody – but he can run routes and he can get open. That’s why we’re going to miss him, and the Dolphins are lucky to have him.
Roethlisberger was speaking with TheFinsiders.com, a Dolphins fan site, when he said that. Whether he was just trying to make Miami fans feel good about their latest acquisition or that he’s suffered one too many baby bottles to the head lately, the Mike Wallace Ben describes is a far cry from the Mike Wallace all of us have seen in game film. Why is it that those who defend Wallace get caught up in the idea of the player instead of the what actually unfolded over the last two seasons?
It would be lovely if the Steelers had a receiver with blazing speed who could torch any corner that covered him and could also run curl-routes, in-routes, and be a possession type receiver. But they never did during Mike Wallace’s short stint with the team. He is/was indeed a one trick pony – for a lack of a better analogy that’s ever come out about him. Wallace’s comfort zone was running deep routes and catching floating bombs coming in from 40 yards out. He was never nor was ever going to be a Hines Ward type of route runner – one who could run and do anything you told him to and have the hands to catch a bullet screaming out of the pocket and pull it in to the numbers. The Dolphins just bought themselves a $60 million deep threat. And if fans in Miami think they are getting anything different they are severely delusional or lied to. Nothing wrong with a $60 million deep threat just as long as Wallace gets over 1,500 yards and 15 TD’s a season. Maybe he will, but I doubt it will be this season with the help the Dolphins still need at the offensive line.
I feel bad that Roethlisberger thinks the Steelers will miss Wallace for his versatility. Where the Steelers will miss Wallace the most is his ability to draw coverage away from other receivers. That’s it. Period. That is certainly a replaceable attribute with another player. I get where he’s coming from, however. Wallace was supposed to be the guy that got this offense to be a juggernaut by wreaking havoc down the field and rid the Steelers of their Red Zone woes. Though Ben won’t come right out and say it, Wallace was also the guy meant to help Roethlisberger reach the upper echelon of elite quarterbacks – the guy to help vault Big Ben over players like Eli Manning who are continually placed (wrongly so) ahead of the greatest quarterback in Steelers franchise history.
It certainly is a let down that Wallace was not the guy everyone wanted him to be. It’s also a let down the Steelers couldn’t afford to keep him and see if he could ever get closer to being that kind of player. Until the Steelers had a more solid running game and a consistently better pass blocking offensive line, it was too big of a risk to see when that would actually happen. It’s best they parted ways a got rid of a player who allowed a contract dispute get in the way of being productive and having focus for 60 minutes.
So now the team must look to the draft and see if they can select a player in the pool who still has the potential to be a big play maker. With all the other needs the Steelers have this season, I have my doubts about them finding the perfect player to fit this franchise. But, in the Steelers Brass we trust.