Wide receiver understands criticism, hopes to improve

Steelers’ Wallace not upset with fan frustration

December 13, 2012
Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace catches a touchdown pass against Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer last Sunday. Wallace was booed after dropping a deep pass against San Diego. - Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – Mike Wallace doesn’t feel like he can win at this point no matter what he does.

Following his training camp holdout over a contract dispute, Wallace has felt like a marked man all season, not only by opposing defenses, but by some Steelers fans as well.

“Anything I do is going to be magnified, good or bad; it doesn’t really matter,” said Wallace. “I’ve just got to do what I need to do and handle my business, and don’t give anybody a reason to say anything.”

Despite posting 728 yards and eight touchdowns, both of which are team highs heading into Sunday’s game at Dallas, Wallace has been the target not only of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s passes, but of criticism from fans all season.

It reached a crescendo in the first half of last Sunday’s 34-24 loss to San Diego at Heinz Field when Wallace was roundly booed after a deep pass from Roethlisberger tipped off his hands.

Wallace understands the frustration.

“I’m 100 percent good. It’s not like they did anything wrong,” Wallace said of the fans who booed him. “It was something I did. I don’t have a problem with it.”

Roethlisberger also was unhappy at halftime after the offense recorded just two first downs and didn’t score until a last-second field goal. He expressed that displeasure in the locker room.

“I kind of unloaded,” the quarterback said. “I laid into the whole offense, not just Wallace. I think we all deserved to get booed, which I feel like we did.”

But it was Wallace, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season, who felt it the most. Some have questioned his desire and work ethic following his holdout.

“I never take a day off. I never lollygag,” Wallace said. “I work hard every single day. I feel like the ball just bounces the other way sometimes. Sometimes things go your way. It’s not like I’m dropping every pass. I make a lot of plays, too. But I would definitely love to make very single play on the field and help my team as much as I can. I just have to keep working. I think things will go my way.”

The numbers tend to back up Wallace. According to STATS LLC, Wallace has dropped six of the 104 passes thrown his way.

The Giants’ Victor Cruz leads the league with 10 dropped passes, while New England’s Wes Welker and New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham are tied for second with nine each. Cruz, Welker and Graham, like Wallace, are Pro Bowl players.

Other players who have been credited with more drops than Wallace include Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Chicago’s Brandon Marshall.

Wallace also has made a number of big catches for the Steelers this season as well, including game-changing touchdowns against the Giants and Chiefs.

“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Mike,” said Roethlisberger. “He’s got it in himself, and we all have it in him that he’s going to come out and be great. There was never a second thought in my mind about it.”

Odds and end zones

Cornerback Keenan Lewis and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders both returned to practice Thursday for the Steelers after sitting out Wednesday. … Offensive linemen Mike Adams (ankle) and Willie Colon (knee), corners Cortez Allen (groin) and Ike Taylor (ankle), linebacker James Harrison (illness) and strong safety Troy Polamalu (coach’s decision) did not practice Thursday.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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