As Patriots coach Bill Belichick prepares for the Steelers on Sunday, he says stopping receiver Mike Wallace is going to be a huge challenge for his defense.
“He’s a big-play receiver. He’s really fast,” Belichick said of Wallace. “Nobody is going to catch him, so you have to be careful about how much space he gets when he catches the ball. I think he’s improved a lot from when we played them last year, just as a football player, his patience and route technique.”
If Wallace has improved a lot from when the Patriots played him last year, that could be trouble: Last year Wallace had eight catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots.
Wallace, who leads the league with six catches of 40 or more yards, is the best deep threat in football. The Providence Journal notes that Belichick could have had Wallace in the 2009 NFL draft but instead chose receiver Brandon Tate, who’s no longer with the Patriots, with the 83rd overall pick. The Steelers took Wallace 84th. It’s fun to think about what kind of passing game the Patriots could have if they added Wallace, but suggesting now that the Patriots should have taken Wallace then sounds like 20/20 hindsight.
In any event, Belichick knows his defense has its hands full with Wallace.
“He stretches the field, but he can also take a short pass and turn it into a long run, so you have to defend him from the line of scrimmage to the back of the end zone and from sideline to sideline,” Belichick said. “He’s a tough guy to match up on.”
Wallace is one of the toughest matchup problems in the NFL.