Former Steeler Wallace plays bit part in Dolphins victory
By Bill West
Published: Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, 10:15 p.m.
For four seasons, Mike Wallace delivered chills and thrills to Pittsburgh Steelers fans with his ability to speed through defensive secondaries and pull in bombs from Ben Roethlisberger.
In his first visit to Heinz Field since leaving the Steelers as a free agent in March and signing a five-year, $60 million contract with Miami, Wallace had no wow moments, and fans' chills mostly came from the frigid weather.
The sequence of Wallace streaking downfield to catch a long fade never materialized Sunday, as the former Steelers wideout finished with two receptions for 19 yards. Rarely did the ball even fly his way, as Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill tossed just five passes in Wallace's vicinity.
“I didn't get that many balls today, but you've just got to play,” Wallace said. “You've got to continue to play, continue to fight. And we got the win. At the end of the day, that's all that really matters. It's not really a personal thing. I would've loved to have scored, though.”
Even with a quiet day from Wallace, Miami's offense thrived. The Dolphins, leaning on the pass-catching tandem of tight end Charles Clay and wide receiver Brian Hartline, finished with a season-high 34 points.
Clay led Miami with seven catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner. Hartline added five receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown.
“The whole game, when they scored, our offense felt like we could score,” Wallace said.
Wallace's first reception of the game, a 12-yard pickup on a comeback route along the right sideline, produced a chorus of boos from the stands. A more subdued fan reaction followed two plays later, when Wallace pulled in a 7-yard catch along the right sideline that helped set up the Dolphins' first touchdown midway through the second quarter.
Aside from those two receptions, Wallace watched the ball come his way only one other time in the first half. Ryan Tannehill looked for Wallace deep down the right side of the field on first-and-10 at Miami's 24 with about four minutes left in the first quarter, but cornerback Cortez Allen, matched up with Wallace for most of the game, batted the ball away.
Two receptions late in the first half ultimately served as highlights for Wallace, who was targeted only once by Tannehill in the second half; Allen broke up another long pass intended for Wallace down the right side.
“I haven't had that many big plays, but I can still do it,” said Wallace, who entered the game with 56 receptions for 743 yards. “It's not up to me. I go out there and play my role and run whatever play coach calls.”
Throughout the game, Wallace made no effort to hide his friendship with a few Steelers. He and Roethlisberger shared a handshake-turned-hug after the coin toss. And Wallace was the last Dolphin off the field, as he spent several minutes hugging and talking with former teammates, including Antonio Brown, who now lives atop the Steelers' big-play throne.
“It's different being on this side, coming into the small locker room,” Wallace said. “But it's cool. Everything in life happens for a reason. I'm happy with where I'm at. Those guys are having great success as a (receiving) unit over there, so they're obviously happy with where they're at.
“Those are my brothers. I went through a lot of wars, a lot of battles with those guys. There's not hatred. It's all love. I have a lot of respect — a great city, great fans, great people.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.
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