Pittsburgh Steelers Fans Wrong on Loss of Mike Wallace
By Sheldon Rodgers | Yahoo! Contributor Network Thu, Jun 27, 2013
COMMENTARY | I have always held Pittsburgh Steelers enthusiasts in high regard as being the most knowledgeable and educated of any fanbase in the NFL. However, recent discussions I have had with many of Steelers Nation have me beginning to question the truth of this statement, and all because of a player that is no longer with the organization. That player is wide receiver Mike Wallace, and the common thread of what I am hearing is that, essentially, Wallace is a bum and the team is better off without him.
At first, I thought these types of comments were merely sour grapes from a few fans that were upset that Wallace had signed with the Miami Dolphins instead of reupping with the Steelers. But then those comments continued throughout the offseason, becoming more and more vitriolic as time went by, and said by more and more people that I've spoken with on the matter.
I couldn't wrap my head around it, as Wallace had been one of the more spectacular offensive players on the team in many years. He is widely regarded as the fastest player in the NFL and was one of the few wide receivers to make an impact as a Steelers rookie and throughout his four years with the team.
There also can be no denying that Pittsburgh has very little in the way of proven pass catchers to take his place, and there seems to be no guarantees that his on-field production can be compensated for this upcoming season.
We're talking about a player that has 32 touchdown receptions in those four seasons, with 4,042 yards and an average yards per catch of 17.2. Throw in the fact that Wallace has the longest TD catch in Steelers history (95 yards), led the league in yards per catch in 2009 and the AFC in 2010 and the picture is clearly painted of a guy who can flat out ball in the National Football League. No matter how you slice it, those are exceptional numbers and ones that absolutely cannot be easily replaced.
The complaints that I heard vary to some degree. One recurring knock on Wallace was that his hands were poor and he dropped too many balls. The numbers don't show that to be true, though, as Wallace had a total of six dropped passes in 2012. That didn't even place him into the top 25 players with the most drops. And even if he had double-digit drops, he would be in the company of Jimmy Graham, Victor Cruz, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall. That is not bad company to be in.
Others have said that Antonio Brown is simply the better receiver. Here again, the numbers don't show that to be true either. The most touchdowns that Brown had in a season was 5, while the least amount of touchdowns that Wallace had was 6. Brown also had fewer receiving yards than Wallace in each of the three seasons that they played together.
While Brown is an excellent player, it is not true to say that he is better than Wallace. Maybe 2013 is the year that Brown shows me otherwise, but the truest thing I can say about all of this is that Pittsburgh was better off having both Wallace and Brown, and they are certainly not a better team now that Wallace is gone, at least not on the field.
This, then, takes me back to my original assertion and those feelings of sour grapes. But these feelings were not just based on Wallace signing with a different team this offseason. It goes back to the attitude that Wallace had as a rookie, and being the leader of the "Young Money Crew."
For the uninitiated, the "Young Money Crew" was the name Wallace gave to himself and the other new receivers coming onto the team from 2010 to 2012 and included Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Like the name implies, Wallace let everyone know early on what he was about: money. He backed up this sentiment last offseason, holding out of training camp in complaint of his contract.
That doesn't fly in Pittsburgh. There is one surefire way to become beloved in this town, and that is to work your butt off, every day and every game, without complaint and without braggadocio. See Heath Miller or Hines Ward. If you play for a team in this city and you're only about the money, then the fans will gladly see you leave, regardless of how good you are.
So there it is in a nutshell. Wallace was not our kind of person, plain and simple. So while I wasn't sad to see him leave, either, I still know that his absence will be felt on the field of play. While Wallace has indeed presented himself as a bum, it was in the newspapers and not on the gridiron.