Speedy Wallace helps Miami get off to fast start
Ex-Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace watched his former
team on TV this week and described the experience as weird, in part
because they lost.
That didn’t happen much when Wallace played for them. Now
Pittsburgh’s 0-2, while Wallace’s surprising Miami Dolphins are
He’s not gloating about the Steelers’ poor start, however.
”I still wish those guys the best,” Wallace said. ”Nobody can
really stay on top forever, and if anybody can get through this, I
know those guys can. But I’m not there; I’m here. And that’s all
that really matters.”
While Wallace’s absence is only part of Pittsburgh’s problem,
he’s a big reason for the Dolphins’ success. He served mostly as a
decoy in the first game, opening up other options for quarterback
Ryan Tannehill, then matched his career high with nine catches for
115 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win at Indianapolis.
”We were going to find a way to get him involved at some
point,” Tannehill said. ”When you have a playmaker like that, you
want to give him the ball.”
Thanks in large part to the addition of Wallace, the Dolphins
might have enough offensive punch Sunday to keep up with the Matt
Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. Wallace, Brian Hartline and tight end
Charles Clay each have at least 10 receptions for at least 130
yards, and Miami has showed considerable quick-strike capability,
something lacking in recent seasons. At Indy, the Dolphins’
touchdowns came on drives of six, three and six plays.
In recent years, the Dolphins’ recipe for victory was ball
control and stout defense. That didn’t work very well – they’ve
endured four consecutive losing seasons.
It has been four years since Miami’s offense had a higher NFL
ranking than the defense.
”We don’t want our defense to be the best on the team,”
Wallace said. ”We want this to be an offensive team. And if the
defense has the same mentality, we can be a great team. I don’t
want to be on a team where the defense is carrying us. That’s not
what I came here for.”
Such determination is reflected in his work habits. Coach Joe
Philbin praised Wallace for practicing better recently than when he
first came to Miami.
”I like the way he’s practicing, and he’s a good guy in the
locker room, so it has been good,” Philbin said.
Wallace, who averaged eight touchdowns a year in his four
seasons with Pittsburgh, scored his first Dolphins TD last week on
an 18-yard catch and run. He also had a 34-yard reception that put
the ball at the 1, setting up Miami’s final score.
”He’s a better route runner than I think he gets credit for a
lot of times,” Tannehill said. ”Coming in, everyone was just
saying he’s a deep threat. Of course he brings that to the table –
he has tremendous speed and he’s able to get downfield for us – but
he has improved a lot in his route running just since he has been
here. We are comfortable with him running any route in the
playbook, so he is not just a deep threat. He’s an all-around
With a win this week, the Dolphins would be 3-0 for the first
time since 2002. They were widely discounted as playoff contenders
before the season, in part because they’ve reached the postseason
only once in the past 12 years.
”We still have a long way to go,” said Wallace, who became
accustomed to playing for a perennial contender in Pittsburgh. ”If
we win this game, I guess people will start to notice us. But at
the same time, I don’t care. I know my teammates don’t care.
”When you win, everybody is going to pay attention, so we just
have to keep doing what we’re doing.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and
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