View Full Version : Steelers WR Mike Wallace vs. Seahawks S Earl Thomas

09-18-2011, 01:19 AM
Head-to-head matchup: Steelers WR Mike Wallace vs. Seahawks S Earl Thomas
Sunday, September 18, 2011
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mike Wallace is arguably the best deep threat in the pass-happy NFL, maybe even more so than DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles.

He led the league with 10 receptions of 40 yards or longer, was second with 17 catches of 25 yards or longer and led the AFC with an average of 21 yards per catch in 2010. Eight of his 10 touchdown catches were 39 yards or longer.

Opposing teams, though, are finally beginning to heed what everyone has been told for years -- speed kills.

In an attempt to prevent the deep pass, cornerbacks are starting to back off Wallace, the Steelers' third-year receiver, as though he has bad breath. Drive-through restaurants can be built in the area between Wallace and the closest cornerback anymore.

"Defensive backs in this league, by nature, they have to be very cocky," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "They think they're the fastest, they're the best, and when they see Mike on film, they think, 'Oh, he might have run by that guy, but he's not going to run by me. I'm too fast.' Then he gets in the game and finds out this guy can run by me. He's as fast as advertised. So they're backing off."

Not only that, opposing teams are rotating a safety toward Wallace and playing more two-deep coverage in attempt to take away the big play -- something the Seattle Seahawks will probably try to do today at Heinz Field with safety Earl Thomas, their version of Troy Polamalu.

Thomas had a team-high five interceptions in 2010, tying a club record for most by a rookie.

It has been that way since last year's postseason, and the numbers bear out the preventive defensive approach.

Wallace has 21 catches for 222 yards in the past four games, dating to the end of the 2010 regular season, an average of just 10.57 yards per catch -- nearly 101/2 yards fewer than his AFC-leading average. What's more, his longest catch in those four games is 26 yards.

"Teams are starting to play cover-two to that side, and they're not pressing him as much as they want to," said veteran Hines Ward. "His speed alone is a threat. That's what makes him dangerous. You can't teach speed. You can't teach that."

The Steelers are trying to counter that approach by getting Wallace involved in a different manner -- throwing him quick screens and slants to give him a chance to make plays after the catch.

That's what happened last week in Baltimore when Wallace caught eight passes for 107 yards -- his fourth consecutive 100-yard receiving game in the regular season, dating to last season. Wallace's longest catch-and-run was 26 yards.

"If they do that, we can still convert a lot of short passes," Wallace said, referring to the deep coverage teams have been employing. "I don't feel like we're doing anything different. We're still running our plays, but I have different signals on different plays to break off routes and do different things, according to the coverage. I just do that, catch short passes and try to make some yards after the catch."

Said Ward, "He didn't catch any bombs, but he had enough catches where he was still making plays on the field and affecting the game."

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09-18-2011, 01:25 AM
Ben seeks better connection with Brown
Sunday, September 18, 2011
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... /steelers/ (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/)

Among the many things the Steelers will try to improve upon today against the Seattle Seahawks is the chemistry between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

Roethlisberger targeted Brown nine times last Sunday, but the second-year man caught just two passes for 14 yards in a 35-7 loss to the Ravens.

Brown starred for the Steelers during the preseason, and he is expected to be a big part of the passing game this season. Roethlisberger said he is taking it upon himself to get more in sync with Brown.

"It may sound crazy, but he runs his routes a little deeper than Mike (Wallace) does," Roethlisberger said. "I have to be better at finding him and understanding where he's going to be on the field. I hate to put a lot on him, because he's a young guy and I would rather put it on myself to make the adjustments so that we can be on the same page."

Timing isn't everything

Lousy timing won't help Seattle today when it tries to spring an upset at Heinz Field.

Then again, Seahawks coach Peter Carroll said, there never really is a good time to face a team like the Steelers.

"They are such a big-time team on offense and defense," Carroll said. "I think these guys are very dangerous, and they are going to bring the heat they can muster -- and that's a lot."

Many happy returns?

Of the eight combined kickoff and punts returned for touchdowns in the first week of the season, an NFL record, two were yielded by the Seahawks.

San Francisco's Ted Ginn Jr. returned one of each for a touchdown in the 49ers' 33-17 win last Sunday.

Containing Brown, who is eighth in the NFL in kickoff returns (34.3 yards per return), will be one of the Seahawks' top priorities today.

"We take that as something that was unusual and rare, and we are going to put it back together," Carroll said of the Seahawks' leaky kick coverage last week.




Antonio Brown is one of the premier kick and punt returners in the league and could have a big day against the Seahawks. Brown averaged 34.3 yards in three kick return with a long of 41 yards. Brown didn't have many opportunities returning punts, as he returned onen for seven yards and called for a fair catch on the other attempt. Brown has shown that he can be a game-changer.


Seattle had a tough opening week covering kicks and punts against San Francisco. The 49ers' Ted Ginn returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown and a punt 55 yards for a touchdown in a 33-17 victory over the Seahawks. Ginn returned for the kicks on back-to-back plays in a 19-17 game late in the fourth quarter. Ginn returned five punts for more than an 18-yard average and four kicks for 44 yards per return against the Seahawks.


Brown showed his abilities of changing the tone of a game last year when he took the opening kickoff against Tennessee and returned it 89 yards for a touchdown. Brown had limited opportunities to return kicks as a rookie, as he returned 17 for 23.4 yards per return. He returned 11 more kicks in three postseason games for a 21.9 average with a long of 38 yards. Brown has the speed to make big plays in the kicking game.

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