Mike Wallace has been a reasonably productive individual so far this season. He may not be even a little bit close to the guns ablazin’ sizzling start he had last year, but hey, that came during a far away time when Antonio Brown was just a meddling second receiver on the Steelers depth chart, and not a receiver who’s pretty much identical in every way to Wallace. Good times indeed.
Now Wallace has 397 receiving yards through his first six games after having 612 at this point at year ago, a pace that’s dropped from 102 yards per game to 66.2, and Wallace’s current string of slightly above average-ness has included a game with only 17 yards (Week 5). But yeah, whatever, amiright? At this point you’re getting what you (hopefully) paid for, with Wallace descending to be a WR2, and a high-end one at that most weeks. He’s your classic pony who’s memorized only one trick: run really far to an unknown destination, and hope a football is waiting for you there. Basically, he’s DeSean Jackson, with both wideouts giving you equal opportunities for a boom or a bust on any given week.
And that’s swell. But Wallace has struggled with a vital part of that equation a bit this year, and especially recently. You know, the part about catching a football.
The Steelers win Sunday night over Cincinnati could have and should have been much more comfortable. They won 24-17, but they did it in spite of Wallace, and certainly not because of him. While finishing with a still decent 52 yards on eight catches in an uncharacteristic game when he was restricted to only short yardage receptions (he averaged 6.5 yards per catch), Wallace had four drops, one of which came in the end zone.
That’s a very Dez Bryantian level of football abuse, and it makes me begin to wonder if Wallace is hanging out with Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson and dropping babies just for fun on Saturday afternoons. That very buttery game has led to an alarming statistical trend.
Tell us more, Jamison Hensley:
Wallace now has five drops in six games this season, which accounts for 10.4 percent of his targets. This is very unusual for Wallace, who had only dropped passes on 2.9 percent of his targets in his first three seasons in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He had never dropped more than four passes in a single season.
Now, before you reach for that paper bag, remember that this is one game, and one week, and nearly all of Wallace’s drops this year have come in that one game. Still, regardless of how he arrived at such a large percentage of drops per target as we creep close to the season’s halfway point, that’s a steep and troubling climb for a usually sure-handed receiver.
Fear not, though, because as Hensley also notes, Wallace was targeted 15 times Sunday, which was nearly double any of his teammates. So Ben Roethlisberger’s faith in Wallace hasn’t wavered, even though yours probably has.