The catches are down and the drops are up this season for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace and on Thursday the frustration that has building for the last several weeks resulted in his admission that he has been losing focus in games that he is not involved in early on.
“I’ve never been a guy who dropped balls or just lose focus,” Wallace said, via a report by Ralph Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “The first three years I was always involved, so you just warmed up in games, and you were just into it.”
“But when you don’t get the ball for two-and-half quarters, you lose focus. But that’s the type of offense this is. We’re spreading it around, so you’re not going to get as many targets. When you get them, you have to make the best of them.”
Wallace, who has 52 catches for 616 yards entering Week 14 of the season, has been limited to just 13 catches for 93 yard in the last 4 games, and also admitted on Thursday that he has had problems staying positive at times this season
“The toughest thing is staying positive through three quarters because you’re not going to get the ball every time,” via the report by Paulk. “You have to be ready to deliver when it comes your way. That’s been the biggest thing I’ve had to learn this year.
Wallace was a restricted free agent this past offseason and tendered at a first round level. After not getting any offer sheets he staged an unsuccessful holdout that resulted in him missing all of training camp. He finally relented and signed his $2.74 million tender late in the preseason likely knowing that this could be his last season in Pittsburgh
Following the loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 12 Wallace was somewhat demoted on the Steelers depth chart when the name of fellow wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was added beside his as a co-starter. Wallace admitted to the media at that time that he was frustrated, but didn\’t go into specifics as to why until Thursday.
Despite the depth chart shake up, Wallace did wind up starting last Sunday in the win over Baltimore Ravens, but he only played 41 snaps, which were fewer than both Sanders and Antonio Brown played. Although he did catch 5 balls for 44 yards in the game, he did have a key drop on a free play right before halftime that would have the resulted in the offense having the ball right around the Ravens 20 yard-line. That drive ended in the Steelers settling for a field goal.
With 4 games now left in the regular season, and the Steelers still very much alive in the playoff race, it\’s probably good that Wallace now has this off of his chest and out there in the open instead of keeping it bottled up inside. It is time now for some of the team leaders, preferable quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, to step in and try to get Wallace to keep his on the prize the rest of the way.
What Wallace has to keep in mind here is that he is just 21 catches shy of beating his 72 catches of last season, which would set a new career high for him. Sure, he will not get close to the 1,000 yard mark, but he is averaging over 7 targets a game this season, so all he has to do is catch everything thrown his way. Yardage being down aside, the catch totals will ensure that his market value remains high when he heads into free agency following the season. He will increase that value more should he come up big in the playoffs, assuming of course the Steelers make it that far
At this point Wallace can\’t put the toothpaste back in the tube so he better just make the best of the situation right now. The writing is now clearly on the wall that he will be out of Pittsburgh next season just like Plaxico Burress was when his rookie contract was up. The Steelers will not slap him with the franchise tag and he will be the big winner on the wide receiver free agent market just a year later than he was hoping for.
The Steelers just don\’t pay big guaranteed money to wide receivers and they will not break that tradition with their former third round draft pick. They will address the wide receiver position again in the draft and move on, just like they did with Burress.
The drops for Wallace may or may not continue from this point forward, but if he does not get his focus and positive state of mind back, he very well might drop his last opportunity to own a Super Bowl championship ring and you really can\’t put a value on that.