On the Steelers: Wallace adjusts nicely, happily in new offense
November 2, 2012 4:00 PM
Mike Wallace's average yards per catch have decreased this season as a result of new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's offense, which quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has described as "dink and dunk."
Matt Freed /Post-Gazette
Steelers receiver Mike Wallace pulls in a pass against Redskins' Josh Wilson in the fourth quarter last Sunday at Heinz Field.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers' new dink-and-dunk offense has shrunk Mike Wallace's receiving statistics, but he has kept a positive outlook about it.
He entered the season as one of the celebrated deep threats in the NFL with a career average of 18.7 yards per catch. After averaging 7.6 yards on 15 receptions the past two games, his season average has dipped to 12.8.
His attitude, however, has not descended with it.
"I'm trying not to, you have to stay positive," Wallace said Thursday. "We're winning right now; you don't want to try to fight it or go against it if it's being productive. I'm just trying to adjust what we're doing in this offense."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has called Todd Haley's offense the "dink and dunk," which is different from the wide open, go-deep thinking under former coordinator Bruce Arians. Haley has emphasized high-percentage passes and getting them away more quickly.
Roethlisberger compared it to the West Coast offense.
"When I grew up, the [San Francisco] 49ers, that's what they did," Roethlisberger said. "That's what a West Coast offense is. Not saying we're a West Coast offense but "dink and dunk' is not a negative term. We're taking advantage of quick, fast receivers, a lot of different receivers, running backs, tight ends, guys getting open. Especially when defenses take away the big play down the field, that's what's open."
Wallace has been open enough to catch 36 passes for 459 yards and four touchdowns and is on pace to catch more than his career high of 72 last season. He's just not catching them deep much. He had an 82-yard touchdown reception at Tennessee, which accounts for nearly 18 percent of his yardage this season.
Wallace said he's run eight "go" routes all season, but three of those were as decoys or clear-outs.
How many did he run last season?
"Almost five a game!" Wallace said. "I used to go deep a lot last year, until eventually I was just clearing it out for AB and Hines. Now, I haven't really gone much deep. Hopefully, we will."
Antonio Brown leads them with 40 receptions and 480 yards with a 12.0 average. Hines Ward was forced into retirement after the 2011 season. Heath Miller is third with 35 catches for 336 yards and leads the team with six touchdowns. Emmanuel Sanders is next with 22 for 282.
Whereas Arians would use four and five receivers, Haley does not deploy as many as four wide receivers much.
"You have to go with the offense that you're in," Wallace said. "Just do what you're used to doing and you have to be able to adapt, and that's what we're trying to do right now. I get the ball, so that's still cool."
Wallace, a restricted free agent, declined to sign his one-year, $2.7 million tender until the end of the preseason, which allowed him to stay away from spring training and the preseason.
He said he has not thought much about what effect this season might have on his future In one sense, the lower numbers per catch might cause some suitors to shy away; in another, they show he's willing and can play in different styles of offenses.
"It might affect it, it might not," Wallace said. "It might affect it in a good way, it might affect it in a bad way. You never know. Right now, I'm not worried about it. I'm just trying to stay positive.
"It could be a positive thing for me, it just depends on how you look at it, and I'm always looking at it in a positive way, especially when we're winning. As long as we're winning, everybody will be happy."
Wallace also has not given up on the idea that the big play will return in a big way.
"Yeah, I think they'll come. I don't think we're just going to go short the whole year. I think we'll eventually open it up and, whenever we do, we'll be ready for it.
If you look at practice, it's not like we never do it, we're still [throwing deep]. It's just a matter of getting an opportunity in games. Hopefully, we get back to it."
Flight plans change
Left without a place to stay Saturday night because their hotel in Jersey City, N.J., has no power, the Steelers will fly to New York Sunday morning for their 4:25 p.m. game that day against the Giants.
The Steelers were scheduled to stay at the Westin in Jersey City, but that hotel has been without power since superstorm Sandy struck. The Steelers checked area hotel rooms and were unable to find one close enough with enough vacant rooms.
They also did not want to be a further disruption to an area already severely damaged and disrupted by the storm and with people whose homes were damaged searching for hotel rooms.
The Steelers will board in Pittsburgh at mid-morning Sunday for the hour-long flight to Newark, N.J. They will eat a pregame meal at a hotel near the airport and then take buses to MetLife Stadium for the game.
The team usually leaves at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, no matter where they are playing, stay one night and fly home after the game.
An NFL rule mandates that visiting teams arrive in the host city a day before a scheduled game, but that rule obviously had to be bypassed in this case as it has on other similar occasions.
Woodley misses practice
Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) did not practice for the second consecutive day, putting in question whether he will be able to play Sunday against the Giants. Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring) also missed practice along with two players declared out for Sunday: Troy Polamalu and Marcus Gilbert.
Rainey remains healthy
The most durable running back the Steelers have had this season is rookie Chris Rainey, he of the slight build and the speed to burn.
Rainey has not missed a practice nor a game while he has watched all the other backs go down. Thursday, Baron Batch did not practice and Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall were limited by injuries. Isaac Redman went through a whole practice, although he said, with two high ankle injuries this year, he may not be healthy all season and will just play through it.
Dwyer, Mendenhall and Redman have all missed time this season, although this is the first time Dwyer has missed because of an injury. He was a healthy scratch for two games and now is trying to overcome what Mike Tomlin described as a tight quad.
Ryan Clark, trying to return from a concussion in the game Sunday against Washington, completed his second consecutive day of practice.