Mike Tomlin’s weekly presser was filled with all sorts of Tomlinisms as per usual, and as we outlined previously, there are many players hoping to come back this Sunday against the Ravens in a key AFC North showdown for both teams.
One nugget that created a buzz was the demotion, of sorts, of receiver Mike Wallace and running back Rashard Mendenhall. Something that in my mind has been a long time coming.
On Wallace: this is a guy with absolutely beyond sick speed. He can surely outrun just about anyone in the league; if you hit him in stride he’s gone 99% of the time no matter who the defense is. The problem is, and has been with Wallace, is that’s pretty much all he gives you. It’s nothing new, the complaints about #17 not fighting for the ball in traffic, or cutting off his route and coming back to help out his quarterback. Apparently Mike Tomlin is trying to send a message to him.
Interestingly enough that same Mike Tomlin said he was satisfied with the effort of Wallace this past Sunday in Cleveland but at the same time he didn’t guarantee that he would start this weekend.
Now that doesn’t mean that Wallace won’t play, it just means that he may not start. With the anticipated return of Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery, along with Plaxico Burress and Emmanuel Sanders still in the lineup, there is more than enough ways to spread the ball around that don’t involve Wallace, for as long as Mike Tomlin sees fit.
I have no doubt that he, Wallace, has the ability to be every bit as good as say Larry Fitzgerald, in the future. That time isn’t now though as he seems to be content to catch the long balls that fall into his hands and complain about everything else. In the end who knows how much good this move by Tomlin will do but with any luck maybe it sparks a fire inside Wallace to finish out the year strong. With just 5 games left, Mike Wallace 47 catches for 572 yds and 6 touchdowns.
If he wants a big payday, he’s going to have to come up big the rest of the way out.
As for Mendenhall, this “demotion” isn’t quite as big as it may seem. Tomlin is going with the hot hand, finally in starting Dwyer and saying that he will get the bulk of the work. We’ll have to see how true that rings out as the game goes on, partly in that how well can Dwyer hold up for 25 carries a game and if he fumbles does he get pulled?
On that fumbling note, Tomlin mentioned on Tuesday that the situation in Cleveland will pulling ball carriers every time they coughed it up doesn’t necessarily carry over from week to week. Sending another message….we’ll see.
Dwyer has easily been the most productive of a largely unproductive group of running backs for the Steelers. He leads the team with 98 attempts for 429 yds. It would take a monster effort to even sniff 1,000 yds this season for him so we shouldn’t expect that. At this point, we just need to hope that he is up to the task of being the feature back and Tomlin is up to the task of letting him be the feature back.
I’m confident in the former, but iffy at best on the latter.