On the Steelers: Receivers will put out welcome mat for Wallace
December 4, 2013 11:24 PM
Mike Wallace returns to Heinz Field Sunday with the Miami Dolphins.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Young Money crew of wide receivers who helped the Steelers to their most recent Super Bowl appearance will hold two reunions this weekend in Pittsburgh.
The first will occur when Antonio Brown picks up Mike Wallace Saturday at the Miami Dolphins' hotel and whisks him to Brown's place for dinner, where they will be joined by Emmanuel Sanders.
"It will be a great time to catch up at my house on the off time before we gather at the hotel," Brown said. "I'm looking forward to seeing my friend and catching up with family and seeing what's been going on."
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Wallace should not expect a home-cooked meal from his former teammate, both of whom played in the Pro Bowl after the 2011 season.
"I don't cook," Brown said.
Wallace then will go his separate way and stand on the opposite sideline Sunday at Heinz Field, returning to his former place of work.
The Steelers would like to see him stay on the sideline. He has not had a Pro Bowl season for someone who signed a $60 million contract, but his production has picked up considerably the past two games. Against Carolina, he caught five passes for 127 yards and a touchdown, and against the New York Jets, he caught seven for 82 yards and a touchdown. Those are two of his three touchdowns this season and the 127 yards were the third most in his career.
Steelers safety Ryan Clark knows what is ahead of him Sunday.
"You can't worry about playing the run, you can't worry about playing the flat or playing crosses -- my job is to be the deep defender and when you have Mike Wallace, that's really deep.
"I think we'll do a good job on him. There are going to be some plays where guys will be matched up one-on-one. You have to understand the beast and the animal you're playing and what you're willing to give him."
Still, it has been somewhat of a disappointing first year in Miami for Wallace, who played his first four seasons with the Steelers as one of the most dangerous deep receivers in the NFL.
Where once he averaged 20 yards per catch, he is down to 13.3. He's second on his own team with 56 receptions for 743 yards. Brian Hartline leads Miami with 62 receptions for 804 yards.
In the meantime, the Steelers passing game has flourished without him. Brown leads the NFL with 85 catches and has 1,103 yards and six touchdowns. Sanders has 54 receptions and four touchdowns. Jerricho Cotchery has eight touchdowns.
How to explain losing such a receiver, adding virtually no one and still excelling as a passing unit?
"Mike was a deep-ball guy, of course," Sanders said. "But when Mike leaves, guys have to step up -- guys like myself. This is the National Football League; anybody is replaceable. They're going to find their guys."
Wallace likely will find an old friend covering him Sunday. Cornerback Ike Taylor often did so in past training camps, and this time it will be for real in a matchup of New Orleans natives.
"One thing he has that you can't coach is speed," Taylor said. "If you're just watching tape, he's been opening it up a lot, not just for himself but for lot of other guys. Hartline has been balling. You can say what you want, he's been kind of the man before Mike came over there.
"With the addition of Mike, it's even scarier."
Wallace attributed his uneven season to working into a new offense, a new team and getting comfortable with it. And while he said he's excited to return to Heinz Field, he does not think the fans will give him a good reception.
"I already know how my welcome is going to be. It's not going to be too pretty," Wallace said.
Consideration for Worilds
Jason Worilds could make his fourth consecutive start at left outside linebacker as he continues to build a case for his next contract after this season.
But he says he's not thinking about that.
"It's way too early to think about the future," Worilds said. "One thing I have learned is things are week-to-week. Anything can happen on a week-to-week basis. I just focus on getting better every day and if I can do that, everything will be all right."
It has turned out very well for him lately. His two sacks of Joe Flacco Thanksgiving night boosted him into the team lead with six. That's one more than LaMarr Woodley, who has not played the past three games because of a calf injury. Woodley went through a limited practice Wednesday and it's possible he could miss another game or might not start Sunday.
"That's to be determined not only on whether or not Woodley is ready, but his level of readiness," coach Mike Tomlin said. "I acknowledge that the work that we've gotten from Worilds, particularly on the left side of our defense, has been impressive and has not gone unnoticed by me."
Tomlin admitted he could switch Woodley to the right side and keep Worilds on the left, where he has been more effective. Worilds started five games on the right side this season.
"It's definitely something to consider, given Jason's performance since [Woodley has] been down, certainly. But I'm not ready to make that determination at this time. Obviously, Woodley's health and availability is a chief element of that decision and the decision-making process."
With Kelvin Beachum listed as "questionable" by Tomlin Tuesday and then missing practice Wednesday with a sprained right knee, it appears Mike Adams could return to start at left tackle. Adams started the first four games there but was replaced by Beachum, who started every game since.
Right guard David DeCastro also did not practice Wednesday because of a sprained foot that makes him questionable for Sunday, according to Tomlin. His likely replacement would be Guy Whimper, who started at right guard for the injured DeCastro Nov. 3 in New England.
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