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Steelers' Wallace blames lack of production on concentration lapses

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 7:48 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Steelers receiver Mike Wallace drops a pass against the Giants last month at MetLife Stadium. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

At times, Mike Wallace appears the perfect fit for the Steelers' passing game. Then there are moments when the fleet-footed receiver seems adrift mentally, resulting in uncharacteristic drops and lapses in concentration.

“I've never been a guy who dropped balls or just lose focus,” Wallace said somewhat apologetically. “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, one of the NFL's preeminent deep threats, arrived at training camp last season boasting he could eclipse 2,000 receiving yards. But he struggled in Todd Haley's offense. Over the past four games, he hasn't totaled a football-field worth of yards: 13 catches for 93 yards.

“When I don't get the ball for a certain amount of time, I lose focus sometimes,” he said. “It hurts me when it's time for me to make a play.”

Wallace has endured some difficult stretches. His speed has been negated by double teams and Haley's willingness to spread the wealth.

“The toughest thing is staying positive through three quarters because you're not going to get the ball every time,” Wallace said as the team prepares to face San Diego on Sunday at Heinz Field. “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.”

On a team with a trio of standout receivers — Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders — tight end Heath Miller leads the way in receptions (56) and touchdowns (7).

Wallace's team-high 616 receiving yards are only three more than Miller's. The numbers are reflective of Wallace's frustration and far short of his production the previous two seasons, when he had about 1,200 yards receiving.

“We spread the ball around more than we did in the past,” said Wallace, who missed all of training camp because of a contract dispute. “So it's not one or two people with yards. Nobody's numbers just jump out.

“If there's been a play that I haven't made this year, it's been in the second or third quarter when I haven't been getting too many passes ... and I'm losing focus. I get a little frustrated, and that's the main thing.”

The Steelers will need a focused Wallace as they pursue an AFC playoff berth. It's a four-game stretch run in which Wallace insists he's ready to deliver.

“It'll make me forget about all the stuff that happened in the first (11) games,” Wallace said. “There have been a lot of plays made this year, but a lot of plays have been missed at the same time. I'm used to making big plays, but I'm not getting as many opportunities to make those plays.

“Sometimes I have to remind them not to forget about me.”

Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com.

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