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Ready for divisional play

Posted by Teresa Varley on October 17, 2012 – 6:25 pm

The Steelers are one of only three NFL teams, San Francisco and Washington being the others, that haven’t played a divisional game yet this season, but that all changes this weekend with a key AFC North matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“Since I have been here they have been our rivals, the Bengals, Browns and Ravens,” said linebacker Larry Foote. “We need to gain some ground. We need a win and they need a win also. It’s going to be a hard-hitting game.”

The Bengals are 3-3 overall and in second place with a 1-2 division record, but are coming off a loss to the Cleveland Browns. This week pits two teams that like Foote said need a win bad.

“It’s a division game. It’s always going to be tough no matter what the records are,” said tight end Heath Miller. “We are both teams in need of a win this weekend. We have to understand the hunger they are going to play with and we have to bring the same intensity because we need to take a step in the right direction.”

The Steelers have won nine of the last 10 games in Cincinnati, but know that they are going to have a tough battle at Paul Brown Stadium.

“It’s a tough environment,” said Miller. “We know our work is cut out for us every time we go to Cincinnati. We know we are going to have to bring energy, start the game fast because their crowd is going to be into it. It’s a big game for both of us.”

The intensity will definitely be at a fever pitch, especially with it being a nationally televised Sunday night contest, but that is what the players thrive on.

“I am excited about it,” said receiver Mike Wallace. “It’s a division game. You know they are going to come out and give us a great shot and want to play hard at the beginning. We have to come out with the same intensity as those guys.

“It’s one of the toughest divisions in football. It’s going to be physical and fun. It’s a Sunday night game. You can’t ask for anything more.”


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Records have AFC up for grabs

Posted by Teresa Varley on October 17, 2012 – 6:15 pm


The Steelers might be off to a disappointing 2-3 start, but the AFC is definitely still up for grabs with only two teams able to boast winning records entering week seven.

“It’s far from over,” said receiver Mike Wallace. “This is one of the craziest seasons you have seen with teams having a couple of losses already. A lot of teams wouldn’t normally have three losses already. It’s a blessing in disguise. We have to pick it up and make some plays. I think we are in good shape and will be fine.”

The Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens are both 5-1, while seven teams sit at 3-3. The Steelers and Indianapolis Colts are 2-3, while the Tennessee Titans are 2-4.

“It’s still early,” said guard Ramon Foster. “That is why smart teams start to realize you can take this a long way starting right now. It’s very essential teams start to be on the upper slope right now. There’s no doubt teams have to start realizing this is the point you are getting better or you will be out of the playoffs early this year.”

And Steelers’ players are the first to acknowledge there is no time like the present to be a team headed on that upward slope.

“Our destiny is still in our hands,” said linebacker Larry Foote. “We have 11 games left. We have to get going. Just that mindset is not going to get the job done itself. We have to go out there and execute and play our best game.

“There is so much football left. All we have to do is start stacking wins and see where we fall in December.” 

In order to stack those wins the team must start putting teams away early, and not letting them get back in the game late. In the three losses the Steelers have squandered fourth quarter leads, including a 10-point fourth quarter lead in Oakland.

“We are just not finishing drives at critical times,” said Wallace. “We get the crowd to quiet down and then we let them back in games. We just have to put our foot on their throats. When we get them down we have to continue to score, continue to drive the ball and get some stops on defense.”

Another thing this team has to do to get back on track is pull out a win on the road. The three losses this year have all been on the road, in Denver, Oakland and Tennessee. Nobody believes there is a common thread that is making playing on the road more of a challenge this year, it’s just about execution.
 
“It’s nothing outside of we didn’t play well, we didn’t make plays in critical parts of the game,” said tight end Heath Miller. “We need to play better throughout the entirety of the game to not put ourselves in that position.

“We have to start the games fast and play with the same emotion throughout the game, not play with any lulls or lapses where they make a play and are right back in the game. We have to keep the pedal to the metal the whole game.”


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CBs present a challenge for Steelers receivers

Posted by Teresa Varley on October 3, 2012 – 4:30 pm

While much of the talk about the Philadelphia Eagles centers on quarterback Michael Vick, the Steelers receivers know it’s their defense, in particular their cornerback tandem, they have to worry about this Sunday at Heinz Field.

Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are two of the best in the game, and having to deal with both of them is going to be no easy task.

“They present very good challenges, very tough,” said Jerricho Cotchery. “Both guys are going to be in your face the whole time. Nnamdi is pretty aggressive at the line. He is a guy that has been making plays in the league for a long time now. He is a good corner. Rodgers-Cromartie is an athletic guy, great ball skills. When the ball is in the air you have to attack it because he is going to attack it. They are very good on the outside. They have a very good secondary in general.”

The Eagles secondary is aided by their big guys up front who can put pressure on the quarterback, not allowing much time for the receivers to get open.

“They are good at playing man coverage and you have guys who can rush the passer up front,” said Cotchery. “You have to do what you know how to do as an offense, everyone doing their job and taking care of their responsibility. There isn’t much time to get done what you want to get done. They have benefitted from that the first few games.”

That pass rush is led by defensive end Jason Babin, who leads the Eagles with two and a half sacks, and fellow end Trent Cole who has added one and a half sacks. 

“That is the big part of this week’s game plan, us versus those cornerbacks because of their front,” said Mike Wallace. “They get off so fast we don’t have much time to run our routes. We have to be precise and get open and be right on our screws. You have to get moving and get open.”

Wallace said he likes the challenge of going against the top corners in the game, something that brings out the best on both sides.

“Any time you go against a group like that you want to get the best of them,” said Wallace. “We definitely are going in with a pride factor.”


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A time to heal for several Steelers

Posted by Teresa Varley on September 26, 2012 – 9:16 pm

Steelers’ players have the next four days off for their bye week, giving several who are ailing a chance to get healthy. Among those the team hopes to get back on the field after the bye are linebacker James Harrison, safety Troy Polamalu and running back Rashard Mendenhall.

“It would help,” said linebacker LaMarr Woodley, speaking about Harrison and Polamalu. “Those are our key guys. That makes a big difference for the defense.  Having them back will be great for our defense.  The bye week is always great. Having a few injuries, Troy and James, gives guys time to heal up and rest and come back and play.”

Harrison was on the field for the first time on Tuesday, but didn’t participate on Wednesday. Polamalu worked on both days.

While both players are expected to make an impact upon their return whenever that might be, their teammates also know they can’t depend solely on them to turn things around defensively.

“We have to get them back out there,” said safety Ryan Clark. “But I don’t think it’s fair to put that much pressure on those guys to say you are why we are not playing well. You can’t say the standard is the standard and say we aren’t playing well because they aren’t there. You can’t do that. The guys who are on the field need to perform.”

Mendenhall has been practicing regularly, even getting more physical contact for the first time last week. With the running game not getting in gear yet, having him back soon would be a welcome addition.

“Rashard is one of the best in the league,” said wide receiver Mike Wallace. “When you get a guy back like that who is very explosive, has really good feet, a lot of vision, it’s going to boost our team.”

The Steelers take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 7 at Heinz Field and getting any or all three of the injured players back for that game is something teammates are hoping for.

“You get a player like Rashard back, James and Troy and that will provide us a spark,” said wide receiver Antonio Brown. “They are key factors on our team and provide us an opportunity to win games. It will be great to have them back and this gives them time to recover.”


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Wallace has respect for Holmes

Posted by Teresa Varley on September 13, 2012 – 5:27 pm

Wide receiver Mike Wallace was a teammate of Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes for only one season in Pittsburgh, but the two developed a quick bond that continues today.

“That’s my guy,” said Wallace. “He’s like my big brother. I love him. I’ve got nothing but love and respect for him. Santonio is a great player, a great friend and was a great teammate when he was here. I’ve got nothing but good stuff to say about him.”

Wallace said this week’s game will not be a matter of who has more catches, him or Holmes, but rather which offense is more productive as a whole.

“Hopefully us, not just me but all of us as a group, have the most catches,” said Wallace. “Hopefully everybody in our group has more catches and our running backs have more yards, I just want us to do better obviously because I’m on this team.”

Wallace said he continues to feel more comfortable in the Steelers offense with each passing day, and is almost to 100 percent.

“I moved up from knowing 95 percent of it to 98 percent of it,” said Wallace. “There are still some things I have to learn. I still study a lot. It’s not like because I’m here now that I just stopped and I feel like I have it. I’m still new to it so I still study a lot every night when I leave.

“I’m just trying to be on top of it. I don’t really like making too many mental mistakes. I’m not like that. I’m always trying to stay on top of it.”


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Wallace: “I am ready to go”

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 28, 2012 – 4:20 pm

Mike Wallace was on the sidelines during the Steelers practice on Tuesday afternoon, taking mental reps but only allowed to be a spectator after he reported earlier in the day, ending his long holdout.

Wallace isn’t allowed to practice for three days, and he hopes to return to the field on Monday when the team begins preparation for the regular season opener against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 9.

“I couldn’t even go on the field. That was a little different,” said Wallace. “I am here now, learning the plays. I get to at least see it. At home I couldn’t even see it. At least getting to watch those guys I am getting a couple of mental reps.

“I will be back on Monday hopefully and ready to roll.”

While he couldn’t practice, Wallace was happy just to be around his teammates and be back in football mode.

“That is the best feeling in the world, seeing all of the guys, all of the smiles, all of the sweat, all of that good stuff,” said Wallace. “I am ready to be back, ready to be with my teammates. I am ready to go.

“What I really feel like I missed is my teammates. I am not worried about everything else. Just being around football is what I missed. You have to be out there to run the plays, but I know the plays. I am not really worried about that. I had a lot of time so all I did was study my plays. I knew my plays. I just really missed being around my teammates and the atmosphere.”

Wallace said he decided to return to the team now because he felt like “my teammates need me,” as they prepare for the regular season.

“It’s time to get ready for the season,” said Wallace. “I felt like it was time to go.  I am ready to roll, I am here. That is all that matters to me. I am not worried about why or nothing. Why, because my teammates need me here and it’s time to get prepared for the season.”

It’s going to take Wallace a few days once he is back at practice to get his body back in football shape, even though he definitely looked like he was in condition having spent time in Orlando working with trainer Tom Shaw.

“As far as conditioning-wise we have two weeks until the game,” said Wallace. “I have been working out, doing really good conditioning so that is not going to be a problem. Nothing is like getting in football shape. It’s a little different. The first couple of days I might be a little more tired than the rest of the guys, not because I am not in shape but because it’s different with the pads on. I will be ready when it’s time to go on Sunday night against Denver.”

Wallace, who has a one-year tender, was not focused on a long-term contract on Tuesday, just on being back with the team.

“That’s down the road,” said Wallace of signing a new deal. “Hopefully I can. I would love to be here. This is the team that drafted me and this is where I want to stay. I am not really worried about down the road. I am worried about playing football right now. That’s it. That’s really the only thing on my mind. You all might think I am just saying that, but that’s it. I am not worried about none of that. That was business. I am not on that right now. I am here to play football, that’s it. I am here with my teammates and happy to see the guys. There were a lot of smiles and a lot of love and that’s all that matters.”

Wallace said he has no regrets about how the holdout played out, and it was never about not wanting to be there for his teammates.

“I don’t dwell on the past,” said Wallace. “I am worried about right now, that’s it. I don’t have any regrets. Anything I do in life I don’t regret it. I am grown man, that’s what I do. Whatever I do, that’s what I did.

“The whole time, I never wanted to be away from my teammates. I love my teammates and I love the organization. I never once wanted to be away. But like I said, that’s the business side of it. We handled it the way we had to.”


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Teammates welcome Wallace back

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 28, 2012 – 4:14 pm

The Steelers practice facility was buzzing on Tuesday with Mike Wallace back in the fold, ending his holdout that covered the team’s OTAs, minicamp and training camp.

And those happiest to have Wallace back were his fellow wide receivers.

“Everyone is excited around here just to get him back,” said Emmanuel Sanders. “The dimension that Mike brings to the offense is the speed. He takes the top off the coverage for us.

“He is a big time playmaker around here. He has been doing that the past three years. We are excited to get him back. He is the last link for us to take off.”

Antonio Brown was energized to have Wallace back, knowing it helps the offense overall to have the speedy receiver as part of the arsenal.

“It definitely helps everyone’s cause with a guy like Mike, taking the top off defenses,” said Brown. “It opens us up. Mike can do so many things to get us open, draw coverage, help us get open underneath. It allows so many other things and options.

“It’s something special, knowing we have our guy back. We all need him here, working together, moving on in the right direction and chasing the Lombardi. He is going to be a key role in that.”

Another person who is going to benefit by Wallace’s return is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, giving him another weapon on the field.

“To have him here is another piece of the puzzle that completes it for us,” said Roethlisberger. “He is a fast guy that stretches the field for guys and gets other guys open and makes big plays for us.”

Wallace will have some catching up to do, but his teammates are happy to make sure he is right on schedule for opening day in Denver on Sept. 9.

“We are going to do the extra things we need to do to make sure he is ready,” said Brown. “If that is stay out after practice, we will do the necessary things to make sure when we go to Denver we are ready. It’s going to take a little bit of time and studying but that is why he is here. It’s just fun to have him back and see if we can get off to a great start.”

Wallace can’t practice for three days, ruling him out for the preseason finale against Carolina on Thursday night, and giving him only a week to prepare for the Denver game. But teammates are confident he will be ready.

“I feel like he is going to do everything necessary that he has to do,” said Sanders. “The coaches are going to work with him hard to get him caught up.

“It’s a new playbook. There are some similar things he will be able to pick up on. He is not familiar with the concepts, but he will get caught up fast and coach will do an exceptional job getting him caught up. I think he will be ready by Denver. No question about it.”

There was no dissension among the ranks, with the players understanding Wallace’s situation and welcoming him back with open arms.

“We understand. That is the business part,” said Sanders. “We missed his personality in the offensive room. Ever since I have been here he has been in that meeting room. It’s been different, but everyone is glad he is back. The Young Money Crew is back. We are looking forward to that. It’s going to be fun.”

And speaking of fun, right after Wallace arrived at the facility linebacker James Harrison had some fun snagging Wallace for the first exclusive interview, which he posted on his Twitter account, @jharrison9292.

“We are friends before anything else and he wanted to talk to a friend first, so I was there for him,” said Harrison. “We talked a little bit and then he gave me the first exclusive.”

Don’t look for Harrison to change professions and join the media ranks, though.

“I don’t like putting cameras in people’s faces,” said Harrison. “It’s not me. But you have to first hear it from James Harrison.”


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Wallace reports to Steelers

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 28, 2012 – 1:40 pm

Wide receiver Mike Wallace arrived at the Steelers practice facility at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex shortly before lunchtime on Tuesday, and his arrival is something that had his fellow wide receivers smiling.

“It’s something special, knowing we have our guy back,” said Antonio Brown. “We all need him here, working together, moving on in the right direction and chasing the Lombardi. He is going to be a key role in that.”

Wallace, who held out all of training camp, can’t practice immediately but is expected by many to be ready for the Denver game on Sept. 9.

“He is going to have to be ready,” said Brown.

Wallace will be talking after practice on Tuesday, and you can watch what he had to say on today’s edition of Steelers.com Live at 4 p.m.


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Brown weighs in on Wallace

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 27, 2012 – 7:15 pm

Much of the talk on Monday was about when wide receiver Mike Wallace will report, with speculation being that he could be with the team as soon as Tuesday.

“It definitely could be tomorrow,” said wide receiver Antonio Brown when directly asked if that is when Wallace will report. “I’m looking forward to seeing him, even though he has to wait three days to practice. Hopefully, we can keep him after practice and run a couple sprints and get him on board and all hands on deck for this journey we’re about to embark on.

“He’s excited. It’s special to be here and he knows that. He appreciates everything and he’s excited to get back. He’s ready to get back to work and ready to embark on a championship. This is where the journey begins.”

Brown said Wallace, who has yet to sign the one-year tender the team offered him, brings another dimension to the offense and his presence will be felt.

 “A player like Mike is so explosive and gets so many things done,” said Brown. “You need a guy like that on your team. It’s amazing when you can get him lined up on the other side and you know what he is capable of. It’s a great thing to have him here.”

If Wallace does report on Tuesday he will not play against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night and can’t practice until next week, in time to prepare for the regular season opener against the Denver Broncos.  

“I’m excited for my guy to come in, get back on the same page and get working together towards something that’s special,” said Brown. “He brings a lot. He’s another great, big-time player. It’s going to be special to get him in, see where he’s at, and get him on the same page.”


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Lewis thinks Wallace will be at camp

Posted by Teresa Varley on July 26, 2012 – 7:07 am

Keenan Lewis came to camp as one of the top competitors for William Gay’s cornerback spot, but most of the questions coming his way were about his close friend and former high school teammate Mike Wallace.

Wallace has not signed the one-year tender the Steelers offered him and hasn’t reported to camp yet.

Lewis and Wallace worked out together in New Orleans all offseason and while he doesn’t know when Wallace will be there, he said he is optimistic he will be at camp.

“He’s planning on coming to camp. I’m pretty sure he’ll be here,” said Lewis. “He’s a football player. He loves playing the game. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to sit out. He worked this offseason.  He’s in shape and ready to go.

“He’s a football player. He loves doing what he does. I’m pretty sure it’s kind of tough not being here with the team. He’ll be here and ready to work. I don’t know where he is, I just know when he comes he will be ready.”

Lewis said he is looking forward to getting on the field and excited about the competition.

“I’m ready for camp,” said Lewis, who arrived in a Smart Car. “Whatever the coaches have planned for me I’m ready to take that next step and go with it.”


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Steelers best third-round draft pick since 1970

Posted by Teresa Varley on April 17, 2012 – 9:29 pm

There are a lot of great options, so take your pick and let us know who you think is the Steelers best third-round draft pick since 1970.

Be sure to vote on the LBs poll as well.


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Post-Game Reaction: Mike Wallace

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 24, 2011 – 7:39 pm

WR Mike Wallace

 

Take us through the bomb that almost resulted in a touchdown. Did you think you had it?

“I thought I fell close to it. Those calls have been close the last few weeks and they’ve been taking my touchdowns away. I don’t know what I’ve been doing. I might be living wrong. I need to start doing a couple more right things, I guess. But it’s all good. It is what it is. We got the win.”

Everybody contributed today.
“That’s about being a team. Our running backs had a big day. [John] Clay got a touchdown. [Isaac Redman] got a touchdown and [Rashard Mendenhall] got a touchdown. So it was a big day for our running backs. Our receivers did okay. We didn’t drop too many balls or anything like that. It was just a matter of opportunity. The running game was really working well today. Those guys did a great job.”

And it seems like the defense did what they are supposed to do against that unit.
“They did. We expect nothing less as we go into the playoffs. We expect those guys to keep doing what they are doing and be the best in the world like they are.”


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Post-Game Reaction: Mike Wallace

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 20, 2011 – 3:19 am

Wide Receiver Mike Wallace Post-Game Reaction:

Talk about the performance of the team today:
“It is what it is, today we just didn’t get it done. There are no excuses; it wasn’t [QB] Ben [Roethlisberger] or anybody else. Collectively, as a group, we just didn’t get it done.”

Talk about the opportunity you guys let slip away with the No. 1 seed?
“Yes, we had the ball in our court and we dropped it a little bit. Having home field is a help but it is not everything. We can still go on the road and win. We can do that too. We put ourselves in a situation and now we have to get ourselves out of it. There is nobody to blame but ourselves.”  

Talk about the offense’s performance:
“We were driving the ball, we just made some turnovers. When we drive down against a team like this, we can’t turn the ball over. We have to keep holding onto the ball and we can’t keep giving it to them especially in the red zone. It is just a matter of controlling the ball. We put ourselves in bad position today and we paid for it.”

Talk about the lighting situation, how weird was that?
“I have never been in a game like that before or when that type of thing happens, but you have to live with it. The light went off on both sides. It wasn’t like it just went off for us. They went off for both teams so it was a little delay to the game but it didn’t stop anything.”


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Wallace with another TD

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 4, 2011 – 3:14 pm

Mike Wallace battled his way into the end zone on a 19-yard pass reception from Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers now lead the Bengals 35-7 with 3:26 in the third quarter.


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Wallace adds a TD

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 4, 2011 – 1:58 pm

Mike Wallace extended the Steelers lead to 21-0 with a 12-yard touchdown reception from Ben Roethlisberger with 8:33 to play in the second quarter.


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Wallace among Pro Bowl top vote getters

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 16, 2011 – 7:24 pm

Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace is ninth overall in Pro Bowl voting with 377,615 votes through Nov. 15. Wallace is second at his position in the AFC, behind New England’s Wes Welker.

Three Steelers players lead the voting in the AFC at their position, including center Maurkice Pouncey (142,930), linebacker LaMarr Woodley (203,794) and strong safety Troy Polamalu (92,630).

Fans can vote for the Steelers by clicking on Pro Bowl Ballot now through the conclusion of the Steelers game against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday, Dec. 19.

Pro Bowl squads will be announced on Tuesday, Dec. 27 and the game will be played on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012 in Honolulu, Hawaii.


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