Conditions favorable for another big year for Steelers' Wallace

Posted Aug. 04, 2011 @ 12:12 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

Steelers WR Mike Wallace was one of fantasy football's breakout stars of 2010, catching 60 passes for 1,257 yards and 10 TDs in 16 regular-season starts. He'll be selected as a No. 1 wideout in all formats, and he's capable of living up to those lofty expectations for these reasons:

• The Steelers' offense suits his skills. Wallace has rare speed, and the Steelers are not afraid to throw it deep. Last season, QB Ben Roethlisberger's average throw was 9.63 yards, third-longest in the NFL. His average completion went for 8.13 yards, second-best in the league. Wallace, whose average reception came 14.93 yards downfield, played a key role in those numbers, of course.

• Wallace was the Steelers' most targeted receiver last season, and that's likely to happen again in 2011. He was targeted 98 times in the regular season, four more times than Hines Ward. In the postseason, Wallace had 26 passes thrown his way, with Ward targeted 17 times.

• Wallace's 61.2 percent catch rate a season ago was quite solid for a wideout targeted as much and as far downfield as he was. Wallace did drop six passes in the regular season, according to STATS Inc., but that's not an unreasonable number for a starting wide receiver. 

• The third-year wideout from Ole Miss finished the season strongly, racking up 100 receiving yards or more in six of the Steelers' final nine regular-season games. Held in check in Pittsburgh's first two postseason games, Wallace played well in Super Bowl XLV against a tough Green Bay secondary, catching 9-89-1.

• The Steelers' schedule sets up well for their passing game. Thirteen of the Steelers' 16 games are against opponents who finished in the bottom half of the league in passing yards allowed per game in 2010.

Wallace doesn't figure to get as many passes thrown his way as receivers like Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Roddy White. And while Wallace has shown improvement as a short and intermediate pass catcher, that's not his strength. Also, the Steelers have several capable short-area targets in Ward, TE Heath Miller and second-year WR Antonio Brown. These factors place Wallace just below the very elite at his position.

However, Wallace, who's No. 25 in PFW's overall fantasy rankings, shouldn't last long in drafts, and if he slips into the 30s, he'll be a bargain, considering his production and potential.