It didn’t take Mike Wallace too long to break onto the NFL scene and prove his big-play ability.
Last year, in just his rookie season, the Steelers wide receiver led the league in receiving average, picking up 19.4 yards per catch.
He’s backed up that strong rookie campaign this year by again leading the league in average yards per catch, this time averaging 22.0 yards every reception.
It’s not difficult to figure out what makes the former Ole Miss receiver such a talent. Ask the Ravens’ coaches and those in the locker room and they’ll all give you a similar response.
“His 4.2 speed is what makes him a good receiver,” defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “When you watch him when he comes off the football, you say, ‘This guy’s a good receiver.’ But he doesn’t look like other receivers until all of a sudden, he’s running by guys. He’s got really, really deceptive fast, fast speed.”
Cornerback Lardarius Webb actually disagrees with his defensive coordinator. He doesn’t think Wallace quite has 4.2-speed.
“Try 4.1,” Webb said with a laugh. “He can move. We’ve got to bring our A-game. We have to play ball. No slacking.”
Webb and the rest of the Ravens’ defensive backs did a good job containing the speed Wallace in their first time facing him this season. Wallace had just two receptions for 24 yards - both season lows - despite the fact that he was targeted by Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch a team-high six times.
On Sunday, however, Wallace will have Ben Roethlisberger under center (unless Roethlisberger’s foot injury somehow keeps him off the field, which appears highly unlikely).
Roethlisberger is a good deep-ball thrower, and has already hit Wallace on three passes of 50 yards or more since the quarterback returned from a four-game suspension to start the season.
The Ravens are well aware of the big-play potential that Wallace brings, and they’ll make every effort to ensure that the 6-foot, 199 pound receiver doesn’t turn on the jets and fly by them on Sunday.
“I’d say that at least on the football field, he’s the fastest receiver in the league,” Carr said. “Of course, Randy Moss is up there, but Wallace is kind of deceptively fast because he gets on you later because of his long strides.
“His speed is definitely his biggest asset, but he’s been doing a very good job of catching the ball as well. He’s making his catches count, so we’ve got to contain him.”