Steelers Notebook: Wallace's TDs are the show-stoppers
Mewelde Moore celebrates his touchdown in the second quarter.
Steelers William Gay takes down Packers Donald Lee.
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Mike Wallace made only two catches yesterday. But he made the most of them.
He scored a touchdown on the Steelers' first play from scrimmage.
He scored a touchdown on the game's final play.
Dramatic enough for a Steelers franchise reeling from five consecutive losses, the longest skid under coach Mike Tomlin? Dramatic enough for a franchise that last won a game on the final play...? Well, archaeologists are still digging deep for that nugget.
"Oh, man, really," linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who provided another sterling effort with four tackles, a shared sack and a quarterback hurry, said of the theatrics. "That reminded you of the Super Bowl play right there. Ben to Santonio. Do or die right there."
Wallace caught a minimum of two passes in 11 of his previous 13 NFL games, but never before did he gather multiple touchdowns. Or touchdowns with as much meaning as his feet-down finale in the front-left corner of the Heinz Field end zone. He had three touchdowns total, until yesterday.
"Go," Wallace explained of that last score. "We all had Go routes, and find the open man.
"When we came out, I saw one safety in the middle of the field [and] I kind of had a feeling that Ben was going to throw me the ball. I just tried to make a good play on it. He told me he may come to me. He made a great throw. I'm not even sure who the cornerback was." It was Josh Bell, for the record.
And the first touchdown, a 60-yard bomb on which Wallace had to stop and grab it because he outran Ben Roethlisberger's heave? "Great throw. OK catch," said Wallace, who was sixth in Steelers receiving this day, far behind Hines Ward and Heath Miller with seven receptions each and 100-plus yards, Rashard Mendenhall's six and Santonio Holmes' three -- including a 32-yarder on fourth-and-seven to revive the final drive.
"He made plays when given the opportunity, not that he's had a bunch of opportunities ... " Tomlin added of Wallace. "It's about what you do with them when you get them. He played big, and he played older than a rookie for us today, which was needed."
The winning extra point by Jeff Reed cost the Steelers a long snapper.
Greg Warren "looks like" he tore the ACL in his right knee on the play, Tomlin said afterward.
The Steelers will begin a search for a replacement today.
This marked the first time in NFL history, an expanse of time covering roughly 13,000 games, that a contest ended in a 37-36 score.
Among the many from yesterday's offensive wreckage:
• Hines Ward surpassed 1,000 yards receiving to join Holmes as the second pair in Steelers history to reach that plateau, behind Ward-Plaxico Burress (2001-02). It also marked the sixth time in the past nine seasons Ward has hit the century mark.
• Roethlisberger early in the second half polished off his fifth 300-yard passing game of the season, a Steelers record eclipsing the four by predecessors Tommy Maddox (2002-05) and Neil O'Donnell (1990-95). He also blew past his career high, finishing the day with 3,849 yards to date this season. But he also recorded the first 500-yard day in Steelers history, with 503 total -- throttling the 473 yards Maddox compiled in a 15-minute overtime tie with Atlanta on Nov. 10, 2002 and the 472 the Steelers collected in a triumph against the Chicago Cardinals Dec. 13, 1958. With a minute left in the game, Roethlisberger also passed Maddox's previous team record of 298 completions in a season.
The player covering Wallace on the final play was Packers second-year cornerback Josh Bell.
"Well, I guess it was not enough," Bell said. "I know I could have put my hand in his basket [stomach] or lifted his arms, or his legs, on that play. But I didn't.
"He didn't run a specific pattern on that play. He just ran up the field, and when [Roethlisberger] started to scramble, then he just broke it off."
Bell, a dime defensive back, was on the field throughout the final Steelers drive. He also was culpable for a defensive-holding penalty on first down from the Packers' 36 on the same play Roethlisberger was sacked.
At one point, Green Bay's defense was flagged for three penalties in six plays, including two on one play by linebacker Brandon Chillar. The Packers were called for three more on the Steelers' game-winning drive, including another by Chillar.
With the Steelers on a first-and-20 on their own 44 after a Max Starks holding penalty and 59 seconds remaining, Chillar collided with Hines Ward was flagged for illegal contact. That gave the Steelers a first down at their 49.
"I didn't see Hines," Chillar said. "I was going to a different spot and a different receiver and just ran into him. And they have to call that."
"They played a lot more base defense versus some of our particular personnel groups," said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy of Greenfield, Bishop Boyle High and once a Pitt graduate assistant. "We felt confident throwing the football. That's why we were throwing the ball." Especially a week after Cleveland rushed for 171 yards against this Steelers defense.
Steelers -- WR Limas Sweed (illness); CB Keenan Lewis, OGs Kraig Urbik and Chris Kemoeatu (wrist); DEs Nick Eason and Sunny Harris; S Troy Polamalu (PCL); and Charlie Batch as No. 3 QB.
Packers -- WR Patrick Williams; former Steelers FB John Kuhn (hand); CB Brandon Underwood (hip); S Matt Giordano; OT Breno Giacomini; OG Allen Barbre; DE Michael Montgomery; LB Jeremy Thompson (neck).
First Published December 21, 2009 12:00 am