It all came so easily for Mike Wallace last season. See Mike Run. See Mike Run Fast. Throw Mike the Ball. See Mike Catch.
Everyone noticed, too, from the start of training camp through the final game of the season at Miami when he caught a 54-yard touchdown pass in a six-point Steelers victory against the Dolphins. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to adjust in camp to release his deep passes to Wallace more quickly or else Wallace would outrun them.
As a rookie, Wallace caught 39 passes for 756 yards, tied for the team lead with six touchdown receptions, and he led the NFL with a 19.4-yard average per catch.
"He had a role that for a rookie was very easy: Go deep, clear the field, run certain routes that you ran well and understood," said Bruce Arians, the Steelers' offensive coordinator.
It was simple math compared to the trigonometry assignment Wallace has this season. He moves from being the receiver who runs deep all the time against man-to-man coverage by the opponent's No. 3 cornerback, to replacing Santonio Holmes at split end, where double coverage, shutdown corners and more complicated routes are the norm.
"I'm excited about that," Wallace said at the prospect of getting double-teamed in coverage. "To be the best, you have to beat the best. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Fellow Pittsburgh starter Hines Ward is impressed.
"I'm amazed at his growth in his second year, for him to be as poised," Ward said.
4for4 scout Dale Lolley has also been covering Pittsburgh's training camp, and reported recently that Wallace has looked good so far. He also reported that the Steelers have been looking for ways to get him involved in the short passing game. Add it all up, and it's easy to see why there has been a lot of fantasy hype about Wallace. He's a solid pick in the sixth or seventh round of a draft, but be advised that his stock is a little lower in PPR leagues.