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Nobody is laughing at Steelers' Wallace now

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011
 

"Don't you know, I'm a 2000 man, and my kids, they just don't understand me at all."

INDIANAPOLIS — Those lyrics for the classic "2000 Man," originally conceived by the Rolling Stones, famously covered by Kiss, might as well be pinned above Mike Wallace's stall in the Steelers' locker room.

He set his goal to be a 2,000-yard wide receiver this season.

And nobody seemed to grasp that the man was serious.

"Ha!" Wallace said after his seven catches spurred the 23-20 victory Sunday night over the Indianapolis Colts. "Doesn't seem like a joke anymore, does it?"

Not in the slightest, as one look atop the NFL's receiving charts illustrates: Wallace's 377 yards ranks No. 2 in the league to the 458 of New England's Wes Welker, only Wallace has achieved that in half as many catches (21) as Welker (42). Wallace's 18 yards per catch ranks No. 1. The 21 catches are tied for third. The 18 first-down catches rank No. 2. The five catches of 20-plus yards rank No. 5.

And that 2,000 thing?

He is on pace for a sweetly symmetrical 2,011 yards in the 2011 season.

"You know, this is just the start, man," Wallace said. "We're only three games into the season. Long way to go."

It will be even longer than Wallace's breathtaking 81-yard touchdown catch late in the first quarter, the latest example of why so many inside the game consider him the NFL's best big-play man.

The Colts guarded against that most of the evening with a conservative Cover-2 defense, but there was no script to stop a play like this: Ben Roethlisberger, replicating a throw he and Wallace were practicing on the Lucas Oil Stadium field just an hour before kickoff, planted himself at the Steelers' 12 and heaved a ball high and deep.

Too far, it seemed initially, for Wallace.

If there is such a thing.

As Roethlisberger recalled, Wallace "put it into overdrive" in blowing by Indianapolis safety David Caldwell and linebacker Pat Angerer, then caught the ball at the Indianapolis 35 — that's 53 yards it traveled in the air — before impressively pulling away from the pack to prance into the end zone.

"That's Mike," fellow receiver Hines Ward said. "He blows the top off a defense."

"We just took what they gave us," Wallace said with a shrug.

That's how Wallace answers most questions about big plays these days. But mention a few of the other catches that accounted for his 144 total yards, and he lights up.

"I take a lot of pride in that because I want to be a complete receiver," Wallace said. "That 81-yard touchdown, it was cool, but I'm used to doing that. I want to get some of those 5-yarders and turn those into 81-yarders. That's my goal, to do it all."

Wallace has been doing plenty of that, to the degree he has been Roethlisberger's primary short target. He is coming back to the play when the quarterback scrambles, even running routes across the middle, and he has looked plenty comfortable.

He sounds comfortable, too, with the idea that he belongs among the NFL's elite.

"If I don't have confidence in myself to be that, who will?" Wallace said. "I always have to feel like I'm one of the best, if not the best. Now, I know when I say that, everybody's going to go crazy. But that's just the way I feel. That's the way I have to feel. I have to set those kinds of goals for myself."

His goal of 2,000 yards never has been achieved. The NFL record of 1,848 was set 16 years ago by Jerry Rice.

"We'll see," Wallace said. "That's all I'm saying right now."

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The Steelers defeat the Colts, 23-20, Sunday September 25, 2011 in Indianapolis.

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