Wallace's learning curve shouldn't be steep
A Mike Wallace-only minicamp rapidly prepared the Steelers' wide receiver to get up and running for his first practice since last season.
Despite Wallace's absence from training camp in Latrobe and every other team activity since the end of last season, his teammates expect Wallace to run with the starters Sunday night in Denver.
“I think he'll be in there quite a bit,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Monday.
The reasoning is simple. No playbook study or video-watching session can prepare a player to run as fast as Wallace does — he was timed at 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash in college — and it's obvious the Steelers' offense is much less scary without Wallace outrunning defenders downfield.
“It's the one thing we were missing,” safety Ryan Clark said.
Wallace practiced Monday for the first time since ending a 35-day holdout that began when he didn't get a new contract by the start of camp July 25. According to Wallace, he rotated in with the other receivers, much like he would any other practice.
The big question as Wallace sat out was how long it would take him to get comfortable with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's playbook, one that his teammates say is substantially different from that of former coordinator Bruce Arians'.
Rather than wait out his teammates' three-day weekend break that started after their preseason game against Carolina on Thursday, Wallace — who reported last Tuesday — showed up at the Steelers' practice complex Friday and Saturday to get a condensed version.
The sessions were so long and intense, Wallace said, that wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery allowed him only a few minutes off for lunch before they resumed work. Wallace gave Montgomery only Sunday off so the assistant could have one day with his wife and children.
“He gave me a big jump with that,” Wallace said. “Coach is always a good person about that. He loves working anyway. He didn't want me to really go home (over the weekend), so he was in there, keeping me. … Those days, those hours really helped me and I appreciate that a lot.”
Wallace picked up so much during the cram course, he was comfortable with all of the play calls Monday. Wallace and Montgomery also talked periodically while Wallace trained in Orlando this summer with conditioning expert Tom Shaw.
“It's really the terminology (that's different),” Wallace said. “There's not too much (different) as far as the plays. Once you're in the NFL, I think all that stuff starts to run together. Of course, you have a couple of different plays, but I feel like the terminology is the main thing. I like where I am right now.”
Then Wallace smiled and said, “His (Montgomery's) job depends on me, so he wants me to be up to speed.”
The Steelers' season might depend on whether Wallace can return to being the big-play receiver he was for most of his first three NFL campaigns, when he averaged at least 16.6 yards per catch every season. But while Wallace started last season with three consecutive 100-yard receiving games, he had only one more the rest of the season.
Wallace will feel more comfortable if he can practice Wednesday — after the game plan is installed — with as little trouble as he experienced Monday. He doesn't think Haley will hold back any of his playbook just because Wallace wasn't there in Latrobe learning it with the other receivers.
“I've got to know everything. I can't just run down the field,” Wallace said. “I have to be able to do short (routes), long, and it was a good day for me. … I don't think they have to hold back too much.”
Roethlisberger said how much Wallace plays Sunday depends on several variables.
“How's he practicing? How's his wind? What's the call? I'm sure there are plays (he'll miss), he's not going to be able to play every play — no one does,” Roethlisberger said.
Wallace has until Sunday to work out a new multiyear contract. Even if he doesn't sign, the Steelers could designate him as their franchise player and bring back yet again next season. For now, he insists that isn't on his mind.
“It's fun being with these guys,” Wallace said. “I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.”
Even if the one place he wants to be was the one place he couldn't be found until last week.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Undersized Beachum quietly excels at 1 of game’s pivotal positions
- Steelers notebook: Polamalu, Taylor unlikely to play, Harrison ‘ready’
- Penguins’ defensive depth proves valuable
- Veteran tight end Miller’s blocking skill crucial to success to Steelers running game
- Steelers, young and old, thirst for opportunity to reach the postseason
- Steelers must be creative in providing snaps for linebackers
- Steelers offense finding an unprecedented balance when it counts
- Steelers notebook: Brown leads WRs in Pro Bowl voting, Bell 2nd at RB
- Steelers notebook: Chiefs pass rush to test Steelers
- Steelers hold off the Falcons to keep moving in AFC North chase
- Red-zone defense helps Steelers hang on against Falcons