What Mike Wallace's Return to Steelers Means for Antonio Brown

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What Mike Wallace's Return to Steelers Means for Antonio Brown
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown are going to become one of the top pass-catching duos in the NFL in 2012 for Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both of them are rising stars, and their skills complement one another to perfection. 

Wallace finally ended his holdout on Tuesday, signing his $2.7 million tender. It was an inevitable outcome, as nobody expected the young man to actually sit out for the regular season. 

 

What Does It Mean?

In the short term, Wallace will have trouble absorbing Todd Haley's system. It's never a good thing to stay away from practice, but when the team has a new offensive coordinator, missing practices and meetings cripples a player's development. 

It's not just the playbook that Wallace has missed. No matter how hard he may have trained on his own, nothing compares to training camp when getting your body into football shape. We've seen it happen to just about every single player that has ever held out. 

How long will it take Wallace to get into the swing of things?

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A month or two into the 2012 season, and we're going to see Wallace make major strides on the field as he understands what the offense is all about. 

Once he's up to speed with Haley's playbook and in football shape, Wallace is going to be just as dangerous as he was last year. 

Many have pontificated about which receiver is better. As far as I'm concerned, they're both top-flight, blue-chip players. But, when they play together, indivisible, under one Roethlisberger, they make each other exponentially better. 

 

How They Help One Another

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Brown's repertoire of skills gives Wallace open lanes under zone defenses.

It's a common misconception that Wallace is the Steelers' only burner out on the field. Many forget that Brown is a 4.4-second 40-yard dash guy, and having both of them on the field at the same time makes life a living hell for opposing defenses. Both of them are faster than just about every defender they'll face, and it's this pure speed that gives them such an advantage when playing together. 

At this time, Brown is the more polished route-runner. His technique is first-class, and when he makes his cuts, oftentimes the defender guarding him loses a step or three. Wallace is still more of a straight-line receiver, and he excels on routes like quick slants and deep crossing patterns.

As such, I've contended that Brown actually helps Wallace more than Wallace helps him. 

From what we've seen so far this preseason from Brown, it seems I was right. Without Wallace in the lineup through three preseason games, Brown has been stellar. He's caught 11 passes for 204 yards (18.5 yards per reception) and three touchdowns. 

If the roles were reversed, I don't see Wallace having the same kind of impact out there on his own. But, when the two of them are together, these two receivers put a ton stress on opposing secondaries. 

 

Predictions

Brown is going to improve upon his numbers from 2011. 

Which receiver will have a bigger impact in 2012?

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I predict Brown will haul in at least 85 catches, 1,500 yards and eight touchdowns. He's just starting to scratch the surface of his potential, and the ceiling is seriously high for this young man.

Wallace's numbers will be slightly down from his 2011 campaign.

I predict Wallace will catch 60 balls for 1,000 yards and five touchdowns. His holdout will certainly have a negative impact on his production for the first few weeks of the season. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

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