Collier: Will Mike Wallace please stand up? The offense is calling

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All right, I guess we've seen enough.

Paging Mike Wallace!

That's right, it's time.

Would Mr. Mike Wallace please pick up the nearest black-and-gold courtesy phone, Mike Wallace please. Mike Wallace, you're needed at 3400 South Water Street as soon as possible.

You might feel that the situation with the new Steelers offense isn't terribly urgent, what with another 20 days of potential dilly-dallying still on the calendar between here and opening night in Denver.

But the curiosity is acute after Sunday night's attack alternated between dink and dunk and clink and clunk -- the curiosity over what offensive coordinator Todd Haley's schematics might look like if they included someone who could actually get open 25 yards downfield.

He wouldn't necessarily have to catch a pass, as Mike Wallace hasn't been terribly reliable that way in recent memory, but just about anyone who would stretch a defense just a little bit might provide some insight at this point.

To be fair, the Steelers scored on a 57-yard pass for the second preseason game in a row last night, but to be accurate, in both cases, Ben Roethlisberger has probably completed longer throws to his hamper than he did to either Chris Rainey in Philadelphia or to Antonio Brown in the first quarter Sunday night.

Brown took a quick screen behind double tight ends Heath Miller and Leonard Pope on the right flank, ripped a seam in the Colts secondary, and rode a brilliant downfield block by Baron Batch to this week's 57-yard touchdown.

"It's amazing," Brown said about being back at Heinz Field, "there's nowhere else I want to play. It's a special feeling every time we come into this stadium."

Translation: Paging Mike Wallace!

Roethlisberger did whip an 18-yard conversion to Brown three plays earlier, but it was little more than a deep out, and Ben's three other completions before being relieved by Charlie Batch went for 3 yards or fewer. The most scintillating of those came when Rainey took a soft swing pass, juggled it high over a defender, re-caught it, if you will, and swept left for a gain of ...

0.

Early in the second half, gameday evidence emerged for the very first time that Haley's got a throw-it-down-the-field menu somewhere in the gameplan database, because Charlie Batch actually wound up and rainbowed one 41 yards down the right sideline to free agent wideout David Gilreath.

But three weeks from now, the Batch-to-Gilreath combination doesn't figure to be an important component of what Haley is trying to get done, unless circumstances you probably don't care to imagine dictate otherwise. That's why it was curious, at least if curious is a viable synonym for reckless, that both Haley and his Indianapolis counterpart, the ever popular Bruce Arians, put their starting quarterbacks in jeopardy on goofy plays in the first half.

Roethlisberger, in the shotgun calling second-and-8 from his 22 on the game's second Steelers possession, faked an inside handoff to Jonathan Dwyer, tucked it and ran left for a gain of 2.

That whooshing sound was an audible gasp from the exhibition audience.

It would have converted easily to a bloodthirsty scream had Roethlisberger gotten up with a broken clavicle for the sake of 2 ground yards on Aug. 19.

For his part, Arians sent No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck running toward the goal line for a tying touchdown in the second quarter, I guess because the Colts are just teeming with quarterbacks who can make all the throws Luck made in an exquisite half in which he completed 16 of 25 passes and led two 80-yard touchdown drives.

Ike Taylor stung him for a pick six and Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton juggled another pass into the hands of Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen, but Luck was still hugely impressive.

"He's his own worst critic," said Colts coach Chuck Pagano. "One of the [interceptions] was obviously a tipped ball that should have been caught and Andrew would love to have the first one back, but again, it showed character and maturity for Andrew to come back, make plays, move the ball down the field and have two nice drives."

Other than the now standard 57-yard dink-and-slink, the Steelers offense showed next to nothing, tangible or otherwise, that would give much indication as to its ultimate character.

Once Mike Wallace figures out there's no longer any utility in this tedious game of chicken he's playing, you can look forward to the Steelers doing something halfway interesting with the football.

genecollier

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com


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