Monday, October 24, 2011

Wallace speeds up his greatness

Monday, October 24, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23: Wide receiver Mike Wallace(notes) #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs past safety Rashad Johnson(notes) #49 of the Arizona Cardinals on his way to score a 95 yard touchdown during their game at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Shame on Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton. He coached the Steelers secondary the past two seasons and saw Mike Wallace every day in practice. He knows how fast Wallace can run.

Extra shame on Cardinals assistant coach Deshea Townsend, who works with the defensive backs. He played 12 seasons with the Steelers and went against Wallace in practice when Wallace was a rookie in 2009. He has experienced just how fast Wallace can run.

"He told me his guys have speed, too," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said, grinning, recalling his conversation last week with Townsend, who remains a close friend.

"I guess they aren't fast enough."

Cornerback Richard Marshall isn't. Cardinals rookie corner Patrick Peterson shadowed Wallace during most of the Steelers' 32-20 win Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium and did a great job, holding him to two catches for 23 yards. But, for some, strange reason that Horton and Townsend surely will regret, Marshall had Wallace on a first-and-15 play from the Steelers' 5 midway through the second quarter. He and the Cardinals quickly were doomed.

"I saw [Marshall] jump outside and let me get inside," Wallace said. "Then, I saw they didn't have a safety in the middle of the field. That's all she wrote."

Wallace blew by Marshall and caught quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's pass at the Steelers' 40. Safety Rashad Johnson tried to catch him, but he had no chance. He isn't as fast as Wallace, either.

"It was game over," Roethlisberger said.

Here's the first of two amazing things:

Wallace has a sore hamstring and was limited in practice last week.

And the second amazing thing:

Horton and Townsend really did warn their defensive backs about Wallace and he still beat them for a 95-yard touchdown, the longest passing play in Steelers history.

We're talking unbelievable speed.

"Freakish speed," Ward said. "Mike has the qualities of a Randy Moss. He's a special kid. He's a freak show out there."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin compared Wallace to another NFL great, Chicago Bears return man Devin Hester. Teams keep kicking to Hester. He keeps bringing 'em back for touchdowns. Opponents know Wallace can hurt them deep. He keeps doing it. This latest big play gave him a catch of at least 40 yards in a sixth consecutive game, the longest such streak in the league since 2000. It was his franchise-record 11th touchdown pass of 40 yards or longer from Roethlisberger.

How does this keep happening?

"They see me on tape and they think it's a game," Wallace said. "But it's real out there."

Oh, it's real, all right.

It showed up on the scoreboard.

The touchdown gave the Steelers a 14-0 lead.

Deflating for the Cardinals?

"I would hope so," Wallace said.

Deflating, indeed, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt admitted.

"Obviously, you can't give up a 95-yard touchdown ball when you have the field position. We did everything we could to work to prevent that."

Still, Wallace won.

"He's a freak show out there ... "

A lot of NFL people and observers have noticed. They are starting to mention Wallace's name among the game's greats. One insider ranked him as the NFL's most dangerous receiver last week, ahead of such talents as Detroit's Calvin Johnson, Houston's Andre Johnson, Atlanta's Roddy White and Cardinals great Larry Fitzgerald, who had four catches Sunday for 78 yards.

"They should, they should [be talking about me]," Wallace said. "I make plays ...

"It's great to see people recognize what I do. It's nice to get some love. But, at the same time, that's something that you never want to buy into. I just want to keep working, keep grinding. Then, hopefully one day, they will say I am the best."

That day is coming fast.

Of course, it's coming fast.

With Wallace, how else would it come?

Ron Cook: Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. More articles by this author

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