Was Mike Wallace a one-year wonder, or will he produce in 2011?
A big-time running back to keep defenses honest. A strong-armed quarterback willing to stand in the face of a pass rush. A possession receiver on the other side of the field. A head coach willing to take shots at the end zone.
It's the perfect storm for a fast and sure-handed wideout to make big plays. Wallace took advantage of that perfect storm to amass 1,257 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2010. He ranked fifth among all NFL wide receivers in fantasy points.
All the ingredients are still there for Wallace to have another monster season: Rashard Mendenhall has developed into the running back the Steelers envisioned when they drafted him in the first round in 2008; Ben Roethlisberger has seven years' experience as the club's starting quarterback even though he is only 29 years old; Hines Ward, though no longer a Pro Bowl pass catcher, is still effective enough to warrant attention; and head coach Mike Tomlin is not afraid to let his team occasionally stray from its run-oriented roots.
Wallace's 10 touchdowns last year averaged 40.7 yards and included 3 bombs of more than 50 yards. He might find it difficult to exceed 10 touchdowns this year, if only because long-distance scoring plays tend to fluctuate from season to season. Still, he has consistently gained big yardage when he catches the ball. In his first two seasons, he averaged 20.3 yards on his 99 catches.
One advantage Wallace has this year over last: Barring injury, he'll have a full season with Roethlisberger at quarterback. Last year, Big Ben did not play the first four games, and Wallace averaged just 53 receiving yards per game. In the 12 games, Roethlisberger did play, Wallace averaged 87 yards per outing.