The Pittsburgh Steelers caught lightning in a bottle with the drafting of wide receiver Mike Wallace in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft, and when that lightning started to get on people’s nerves, drop passes, and demand too much money, they took the cap off and let it go.
After circling around Miami and Minnesota, lightning struck, now twice, in Maryland, where he is entering his second season with the Baltimore Ravens after having his costly second-year option picked up, looking now to take on a more prominent leadership role as he looks around a meeting room in which he is demonstrably the veteran.
There have been many adjectives to describe Wallace the football player over the years, though ‘leader’ never struck me as one of them. But who else is there? Steve Smith just retired, and even their other ‘veteran’, Kamar Aiken, ended up signing elsewhere.
Former first-round pick Breshad Perriman is entering his third season, and coming off the first in which he actually got to play, logging nearly 500 offensive snaps to accumulate 33 receptions for 499 yards and three touchdowns. But nobody is about to mistake him for a leader. Nor anybody else on the depth chart.
It’s a role that Wallace not only has to take on, but one that he apparently wants to in the wake of Smith’s retirement. “I just have to curse a couple more people out, choke a couple more people out”, he said in what it will take to fill the shoes of the future Hall of Famer.
“I’ve got to come back with a different attitude and I’ve got to start pushing people around a little bit more, because Steve isn’t going to be here and somebody has to do it”, he told reporters recently. “So I’m going to do it”.
“Breshad, if he gets out of line, I’m going to smack him up a little bit”, he said of his likely co-starter. “Anybody, no matter who it is. So, I’ve got to take on the Steve role”. He is being compensated like it. Though his $8 million cap hit in 2017 is not entirely based on his 2017 compensation, it is still very significant.
A year ago, the 30-year-old came in and caught 72 passes for 1017 yards, his first 1000-yard season since 2011. He also caught four touchdowns, which is actually the second-fewest he has had in a season.
“Last year was just scrambling around and trying to learn a whole new playbook and things like that, but this year it’s much easier for me”, he said in contrasting his first season with the Ravens to this year. “I’m comfortable, I know all my teammates, I know all my coaches, so it’s just like coming into home”.
He acknowledged that his production faded as the season progressed a year ago, saying that he would like to “continue what I started at the beginning of the year and just make it stretch throughout the whole entire season, through the playoffs and hopefully through the Super Bowl”.