Wallace More Than Ready To Return To Pittsburgh

Posted Dec 3, 2013

Dolphins wide receiver to face his former team for the first time.

Back in Week 4, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace tried to contain his emotions when he took the field in his hometown of New Orleans on Monday Night Football against the Saints. This Sunday will conjure up a different set of emotions.

Wallace will be coming out of the visitors tunnel at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh for the first time in is career after dressing in the Steelers’ locker room from 2009-12. He is prepared for a different kind of welcome from the home fans than what he grew accustomed to.

“At one time I was the second to last person coming out of the tunnel right before Ben (Roethlisberger), so I used to get a lot of love,” said Wallace, who has 12 catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. “I think it’s going to be kind of reversed, so we’ll see. It’ll be different but I’m just going to try my best not to get caught up into too much of the emotional and personal stuff. You can’t make it personal. You want to take that approach but at the same time you’ve got to always remember it’s about the team and you can’t go out there and get too overexcited or you can’t make plays for your team. So I’ll have to do my best to stay composed focus on the task at hand.”

It certainly helps matters that both teams are in the thick of a tight playoff race for the sixth and final spot in the AFC, with Miami sitting at 6-6 and the Steelers a game back at 5-7. This game will have a playoff feel to it because it is so close to the end of the regular season.

Head Coach Joe Philbin knows all about preparing players for games against their former teams, especially this season with so many new free agent acquisitions. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson opened the season against his former team, the Cleveland Browns, in Cleveland and a week later it was linebacker Philip Wheeler going to Indianapolis against the Colts in the building he helped open, so he isn’t worried about Wallace.

“Just have a great week of preparation,” Philbin said. “Study the tape, even though I’m sure he’s familiar with a lot of the guys because he competed against them in practice. Absorb the game plan we are going to give him. Know his role in the plan, what adjustments he may have to make. Get out on the practice field. Get the rhythm, timing and feel down, and then take it to the game. I think it’s really all about preparation and understanding his role in the offense.”

Middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe used to have to watch film of Wallace as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. So in addition to having faced his former team at Sun Life Stadium in Week 5, he knows what the Steelers defense is dealing with now as they see a player they used to defend in practice.

“He’s the type of guy that demands somebody over the top,” Ellerbe said. “So first of all you’ve got to make sure he doesn’t beat you deep. If he was going to catch the ball it was going to be the comebacks and it was going to be something short and then we were going to get him on the ground. We did not want to let him get behind us. … I’m glad he’s on our side now because now they’ve got to worry about him. They know the type of threat he is so I’m looking forward to it and I know it’s going to be a big game for him.”

When Wallace played against the Saints it felt different because that was the team he grew up rooting for and it was also a venue he had played in before in high school playoff games. This time he’s going back to the city where his NFL career began against the team that drafted him in the third round (84th overall) in 2009.

“I actually put in work with those guys, blood, sweat and tears, so it’s a little bit different,” Wallace said. “But this is much more than Mike versus Pittsburgh or Pittsburgh versus Mike, this is about trying to get to the playoffs and it’s bigger than that. This is about making this run in December, trying to be great and start getting the snowball effect rolling and hopefully it will propel us into the playoffs.”
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