Mike Wallace: 'Grateful' to Steelers
Mike Wallace took to Twitter this week to make it clear that while he has been very vocal about how comfortable he is with the Miami Dolphins, he's not out to bash his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On Monday he tweeted: "I want it to be known that I have nothing but love and respect for everybody" on the Steelers. He said the Steelers players "are my brothers for life beyond football so to all the people who think I take shots at them it is totally misleading."
Since joining the Dolphins, Wallace has said Ryan Tannehill can be as good as his Ben Roethlisberger, creating headlines by comparing the second-year quarterback to the Super Bowl-winning veteran. He also recently said the Dolphins have a "college mentality" and are "hungry" due to the team's youthful roster, different than the veteran roster he left in Pittsburgh.
Wallace wanted to make it clear, however, in his tweets that he is thankful for his time in Pittsburgh and is "forever grateful for everything they have ever done for me."
Meanwhile, with Wallace's departure, Antonio Brown steps into the No. 1 receiver role in Pittsburgh.
While the rest of his teammates worked out in black shorts during organized team activities on Tuesday, the fourth-year wide receiver darted through traffic in yellow football pants even though the first live practice won't come for another two months.
"I just want to be ready," Brown said.
Wallace Stretches The Field
Mike Wallace is truly one of the top deep threats in the NFL. Since joining the NFL in 2009, his 68 targets and 19 touchdown receptions on passes 30 yards or more downfield is best in the league. His new QB, Ryan Tannehill, ranked third last season in completion percentage (45.7) on throws of 21 or more yards downfield.
Most 30-yard TD receptions
|Source: ESPN Stats and Information|
Brown has tried to downplay his role as a No. 1 receiver, but that has become reality after he signed a six-year extension last summer while Wallace sat at home during a lengthy holdout, the beginning of a season-long goodbye that ended with Wallace signing a $60 million free agent deal with the Dolphins.
Brown understands "guys come and go all the time" and doesn't feel any more pressure than usual to produce now that he's the one with the most zeroes in his contract.
"I'm just going to do whatever they ask me," he said. "I think I'm capable of making plays. I've always felt that way no matter who else is playing."
Although Brown considers himself just another guy in the receivers' room, his teammates know he faces great expectations. Their job is to help him meet them.
"Antonio Brown, I think, is going to be one of the most feared receivers in the league this year," veteran Plaxico Burress said. "And I'm going to do everything in my power to help him get to the level where he can be an elite receiver."
Adjustments will be necessary as the Steelers try to figure out how to fit in rookies Markus Wheaton and Justin Brown along with veterans Emmanuel Sanders, Burress and Jerricho Cotchery. Wheaton, a third-round pick, may be the best candidate to become the deep threat left by Wallace's departure. Wheaton ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds before the draft, a time he considered slow.
The Steelers will have to wait to get a look at Wheaton with the veterans. He won't be able to participate in full workouts until his class at Oregon State graduates. That could give Justin Brown a chance to make an impression.
Either way, Pittsburgh insists it will be fine without Wallace. Roethlisberger will still do his thing, and the receivers expect plenty of chances to do theirs.
"We'll miss [Wallace] on and off the field. But at the same time, we have some good guys who can run and make up for losing a really good receiver," Cotchery said. "AB is the No. 1 guy now, and Emmanuel is No. 2. Everybody else fits in after that."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.