The Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision to list wide receiver Mike Wallace as a co-starter with Emmanuel Sanders on the team’s updated depth chart didn’t draw much of a reaction from Wallace.
“I don’t really have anything to say about it,” he said during a conference call with Baltimore media Wednesday. “It is what it is.”
But the move could benefit the Ravens, who would be thrilled not to have to worry about the 6-foot, 199-pound speedster this Sunday.
Playing Sanders over Wallace would seem to rob Pittsburgh of its best deep threat. Since entering the NFL in 2009, Wallace ranks third in the league with 43 catches of at least 25 yards and fifth with a 17.3-yard average per reception.
And despite just one catch for nine yards in Sunday’s 20-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns, Wallace still leads the Steelers in yards (572), is tied for first in touchdown catches (six), and ranks second in receptions (47).
But in Wallace’s last two games – both without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger – he has caught five balls for 33 yards. Over that same span, Sanders has caught eight passes for 157 yards.
During his conference call with Baltimore media a few minutes after Wallace’s, coach Mike Tomlin said the decision over whether Wallace or Sanders will start is fluid.
“Depending on situations, we’re capable of using either,” Tomlin said. “Emmanuel’s been very consistent as of late in helping us. We see some situations where we want to utilize his skills in two-receiver sets. And obviously, there are going to be some situations where we want to utilize Mike’s skills. That’s why we listed them in that manner.”
Wallace, who was embroiled in a lengthy contract battle with the Steelers before reporting late to training camp, has enjoyed mixed success against the Ravens. He has posted more than 65 receiving yards in four of eight meetings, including an eight-catch, 107-yard outing in last year’s season opener.
But he has scored just once, and against the Ravens less than two weeks ago, Wallace managed just 26 yards on four receptions and lost a fumble on a strip by cornerback Chris Johnson.
Time will tell if the team’s move was a motivational ploy, but any reduction in Wallace’s role would seem to aid the Ravens.