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Who Makes Up For The Catches The Steelers Lost When Wallace Left?


The Steelers lost their biggest big-play WR this offseason in Mike Wallace, which was totally expected, but at the same time, admit it or not, a blow to the teams offense.

Say all you want about the attitude or dropped passes, but Wallace’s numbers don’t lie – when he was making plays, he was dangerous to the opposing defenses.

In four seasons Wallace averaged 17.2 yards per catch, and scored 32 touchdowns, including 8 in each of the last two seasons.

Wallace in 2012 had 64 grabs for 836 yards, and if the Steelers are going to be a force in the AFC North and the league this year, they have to get those catches and yards back somewhere.

Today, we take a look at the options on the team and where we think Wallace’s snags and yards will end up.

1. Antonio Brown – The obvious choice given he got the contract extension that Wallace turned down, he’ll be looked at as the guy that needs to do the most to get this offense on track in the passing game. Last season had 66 catches for 787 yards and five TD’s, and as the biggest name of the wide out core, he’s got to put up even bigger numbers with Wallace gone. The team expects huge things in year four – let’s see if he delivers.

2. Heath Miller – First and foremost let’s assume that Heath is going to come back to the team at or very close to 100 percent. Things seem to be progressing in his recovery, and if they remain that way, he will once again be counted on to have a monster part of this offense. Miller took a big step at being one of, if not the best TE in the AFC last season with 71 catches for 816 yards and a career-high eight scores. Miller needs to be as good in 2013 as 12, but that may be tough with the injury. Expect a slight downturn in catches and yards as Ben Roethlisberger tries to get more players involved in the pass game.

3. Emmanuel Sanders – May benefit the most from the Wallace departure, as he is in a contract year, and if he wants the type of money or even close that Brown got, he’s got to step up and play like a full-time starter from day one of training camp. Sanders averaged just 39 yards a game last year, pulling in just one score. In his 3 seasons with the Steelers has 94 catches, but only five scores. He needs to find a way to keep himself healthy and on the field, and also needs to get better at making Ben notice him more around the goal line. Let’s see if the Steelers knew what they were doing when they matched the offer sheet from the Pats.

4. Markus Wheaton – He’s the wild card of the bunch, and based on his numbers last season at Oregon State (91 grabs for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdown in 2012), helooks to be a good one. Problem is, it’s going to take some time for him to get adjusted to the pro game, and if you look in the past, it’s rare that a Steelers rookie WR comes right in and makes a huge impact. Still, Wheaton is expected to turn into a big name threat for the Steelers, and if he can get into the pro game quickly, he can help this team this year make up for Wallace.

Summary: At the end of the day, the job of picking up the slack for Wallace has to first and foremost fall on the two WR’s – Brown and Sanders. If Sanders wants to be elite and pickup a huge offseason deal, he’s got a shot in front of him to do it. For Brown, he’s already got the money, and now he needs to numbers to show why the team paid him that much. Miller will contribute, but you have to worry about his injuries and if he can bounce back quickly.

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.



  1. j.hackers

    July 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    the ans. to your ? is that you don’t replace a big play wr a once in a lifetime speed merchant like wallace. too many rookies are being asked to replace all pro players STEELERS 7 and 9

    • c.fletcher

      July 10, 2013 at 5:02 pm

      lol, so because mike wallace is gone they are going to go 7-9? How much did he really contribute in 2012?

  2. DrGeorge

    July 11, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Mike Wallace was and is a gifted athlete with amazing speed — but games are not won by “stars,” but by teams. The Steelers will be a better team without Wallace, if only because his “home run” abilities induced Ben R. and Haley to skew the offense toward him. Wallace aided and abetted the worst of Ben’s river-boat gambler instincts. Not having Wallace will force Ben to play more within the offense, as he should have done all along.

    To my mind, the much bigger loss in the receiving corp is H. Miller, not only for his ability to catch balls in traffic, but for his ability to block downfield. Ben relied on Miller to bail him out of tough situations. Given the severity of his injury, it isn’t likely that Miller will be a major factor in the offense in the first half of the coming season, and none of our other TEs have his skill sets or speed.

    In short, Matt, I don’t think the team is going to make up for Wallace’s production, and I don’t think they have to do so. They will adjust their strategy and place the emphasis elsewhere, probably on the running game and the short passing game, assuming they can get Ben to restrain his impulse to go deep on every pass play. Our two best games last year featured a strong running attack with Redman rather than Ben’s heroics — our victories over the Ravens and the Giants. Batch played QB in the first, and Ben, due his ribs, played conservatively in the second. That seems to me the winning formula in 2013.

    In that regard, more depends offensively on our O-line and Ben’s willingness to play within the offense than on replacing the offensive production of Wallace or Miller. The rest of our receivers aren’t exactly chopped liver. We’ll do all right receiving. The challenge will be to build a consistent O-line and keep it healthy, in order to develop a dominant running game that will take the pressure off Ben R. and the passing game. It appears that is what Tomlin and Haley intend to do. Whether the O-line talent is up to the task (and will be used properly by the coaches) is the larger question to which none of us has the answer.

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