By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers were 1-for-3 scoring touchdowns from inside the 5-yard line against Seattle, but since coaches are a stubborn group offensive coordinator Bruce Arians called for another run when the club reached the 2 with less then four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Seahawks certainly thought it would be a run and jammed the line with nearly all 11 defensive players, so Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger decided to audible. He actually didn’t call it, so the team’s offensive line remained in run-block mode. Steelers wideout Mike Wallace said he initially thought it would be a running play as well.
“Once I got the look, I knew it was a pass,” Wallace said Wednesday. “But it wasn’t for anybody else to know, except me and Ben. We didn’t want anybody else to know, so we kind of kept it under wraps.”
The Seahawks certainly were fooled, because Wallace basically was uncovered when Roethlisberger tossed him the two-yard scoring pass to set the final score.
“I told Mike not to tell people about that, just to say we called that so it seems like we know what we’re doing,” Roethlisberger said. “It was a run play, a run check, but I didn’t check the pass. I dropped back, and he saw me. So, he took off for the corner … and put the ball where he could make a catch.
“But he trusts me to know what he’s going to do, and it’s scary for me to say but I trust him to know what I’m going to do. And that worked out good on that play, but if it didn’t work out we probably would have gotten yelled at for it. … So, it’s a good thing to show that we can be on the same page like that.”
Sure, it’s just two games, but Wallace clearly is a more complete wide receiver than his opening two NFL seasons when he led the NFL in yards per catch. Now, Wallace just doesn’t turn on the afterburners and go deep. He catches quick outs, look-ins and slants, but he can still go get the ball when necessary.
Wallace had a 53-yarder in the second half when he snagged Roethlisberger’s bomb off his shoe-tops, and that gives him 16 catches for 233 yards in two games (14.6 average). That mark was diminished a bit by the two-yard TD.
“Yeah, but it was a touchdown, so I guess I can deal with it,” Wallace said. “I can deal with it a bit, but not too much. That’s the shortest touchdown I’ve had since I’ve been here. (The) one time, he pressed me, I was able to get deep.
“So, that’s just going to happen if guys come down (for tight coverage). So, nothing’s changed. I’m still the same way. I still can get deep. It’s just that guys mostly play off me, so I can’t get deep all the time. I have to pick my spots.”
Roethlisberger noted that not only Wallace, but second-year wideouts Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders also are able to go the distance after catching a shorter pass, so he tries to get the ball in their hands as quickly as possible. Wallace believed that trend should increase with every game.
This is my third year with Ben and Coach Arians in the same offense, so it kind of gets a little easier for us,” Wallace said. “The first year, I was just out there running. Last year, I was running with a little bit more. But now I know what’s going on. So, it’s like night and day from where we started. And the other guys are picking more things up now, too.”
All four wideouts, the young players and 14-year veteran Hines Ward, are sure-handed, but Roethlisberger hesitated to say that Wallace’s mitts were the best.
“He’s got pretty good hands,” Roethlisberger said. “I wouldn’t say he’s got great hands, but they’re pretty good. He’ll argue that he has the best hands on the team, but he also thinks he’s the best shuffleboard player (a table was the newest addition to the locker room) and the smartest.
“The No. 1 in everything. But I think he’s got good hands, and he works really hard at it. I like to tease him that when you walk in here there’s a big picture of him in a game, and he’s making a catch where the ball’s in his stomach and he only has three fingers on the ball. So, that’s my justification to him.”
Wallace still appears to be getting no respect from his coach, who called him a one-trick guy once again during his Tuesday press conference.
“Yeah, I heard about that, man,” Wallace said. “I’ve got to get him off my back, but I’m not worried about it. I guess I just have to do something more so Coach gets off my back.”