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Old 10-14-2010, 07:18 AM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Steelers' Wallace goes from kid to hero

Steelers' Wallace goes from kid to hero
By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times

Tuesday December 22, 2009 12:01 AM

PITTSBURGH — Moments before he became a hero, Mike Wallace got an earful from his angry quarterback.

With 13 seconds left to play Sunday and the Steelers frantically trying to rally, Mike Wallace couldn’t hang on to a pass that would have resulted in at least a first-and-goal inside the Packers’ 5-yard line or maybe even a touchdown.

“I chewed Mike out a little because I felt that he kind of quit on the play,” Ben Roethlisberger said. “I just said, ‘Listen, it’s time that you have to make a play. It’s time to grow up.’ ”

Wallace, 23, grew up in a hurry. Two plays later, he scored a touchdown as time expired that allowed the Steelers to escape with a breathtaking 37-36 win.

On the 19-yard TD, Wallace found a way to get open. He found a way to make a diving catch. And he found a way to keep his feet inbounds.

It was a play reminiscent of Santonio Holmes’ 6-yard TD catch that gave the Steelers’ a 27-23 win in Super Bowl XLIII.

“I’m just happy to have a guy like Ben to come back to me and to have a guy help me fight through adversity,” Wallace said.

Actually, Roethlisberger didn’t go to Wallace by design.

Wallace was the fifth option on the play that started with just three seconds showing on the clock.

Holmes, flanked to the right, was the first option, but he was covered.

Running back Rashard Mendenhall was the second option, but he was covered along the right sideline.

The third option was wide receiver Hines Ward, lined up in the slot on the left side of the formation. But Ward couldn’t shake free.

The fourth option was tight end Heath Miller, who lined up between Ward and left tackle Max Starks. But Miller, too, wasn’t open.

The fifth and final option was Wallace, who flanked to the left.

Inspired by the scolding he got from Roethlisberger, Wallace was determined to make a play if the ball came his way. Roethlisberger did go to Wallace, and this time, Wallace delivered.

He ran straight toward the end zone, and after crossing the goal line, he turned to his left and shook free from cornerback Josh Bell. As Wallace turned, the ball was there for him.

“Great throw. OK catch,” Wallace said with a smile. “You dreams of things like this all the time. Before a game, I always see myself making plays in my head. For it to come true, it’s great.”

Wallace’s game-winning TD was his second catch in a win that keeps the Steelers (7-7) in the hunt for a wild card berth. His first catch came on the first play of the game, a 60-yard bomb in which Wallace blew by cornerback Jarrett Bush.

“He made plays when given the opportunity, not that he’s had a bunch of opportunities (this year),” coach Mike Tomlin said. “It’s about what you do with them when you get them.

“He played big, and he played older than a rookie for us, which was needed.”

With 34 catches for 609 yards this season, Wallace is the Steelers’ fourth-leading receiver behind Ward (83 catches, 1,069 yards), Holmes (73/1,157) and Miller (68/698). But Wallace leads the team with an average of 17.9 yards per catch. And he’s tied with Miller for second on the team with five TDs (Ward has six).

“I understand my role and I understand the guys who are in front of me. They’re great guys. I’m just trying to learn from those guys so when my number is called, I’m going to be ready.”

When it mattered most Sunday, Wallace was more than ready.
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