A couple of years ago the picture was completely different. Mike Wallace was in a black and yellow uniform playing for the steel city and facing the likes of perennially Pro Bowler Ed Reed and Chris McAlister. Revered as one of the best rivalries in sports, the Pittsburgh/Baltimore series never failed to entertain with its physicality and competition ball games.
But fast-forward to 2014 and Wallace is on a new team, with a new quarterback and hopes of a playoff berth. He’ll still be facing the Ravens as the purple and black visit South Beach this Sunday, but they will have a completely different look.
“I just see a lot of different players out there right now actually, just a couple guys who may not have been together that long,” Wallace explained this week at practice. “But I still see some physicality − they do play for the Ravens − I’m used to seeing a physical team with those guys and I still see that. I just see just a different group of guys (who are) probably still learning to play together.”
That doesn’t mean the rivalry in No. 11’s eyes has lost any of its luster.
“It’s still ‘Purple Week’ in my mind,” he continued. “Every time I think about those guys, it’s still that week, no matter what team I play for. I still have the same thoughts in my mind about them as I did when I first started playing for Pittsburgh.
“We hate those guys, we always have. We always have hated those guys, so I mean we know it’s a physical week. We know it’s going to be one of those weeks where you have to bring your hard hat.”
Wallace’s quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, is coming off his first game of the season in which he didn’t throw a touchdown pass − most notably with his top-flight receiver dropping a surefire score midway through the contest. The offense not only failed to deliver a big play, but they really didn’t take a shot besides the dropped pass on the corner route from Wallace, which could have been a 20-plus-yard completion and possible touchdown.
“[The offense] is definitely different, but you know it’s effective,” specified the Dolphins wide out. “We have been winning football games, so there is nothing to complain about.”
The New Orleans native stated it’s critical to convert big plays this week against a Ravens team that can put up points in bunches and plays fundamental defense.
“We are going to breakdown tape [and] watch some of the big plays that they have given up and other (plays) they have given up, but that is every single team. Every single team you can look at and watch film and see some things that you like on tape, but we got to do it this week,” Wallace admitted.
The speedy 6-foot receiver will be primarily matched up against Baltimore’s shutdown corner Lardarius Webb, who has 10 career interceptions but none this season.
“He is a great player, I love playing against him,” explained Wallace. “I missed out on him like two years in a row because he obviously had some injuries, but I love playing against him. He is a guy who brings energy, he’s a great football player. I love playing against him. But (Lardarius Webb) is the only one I remember from back, you know, those Pittsburgh days. It’s a whole new secondary.”
Webb is joined in the secondary by fellow corner Danny Gorrer and safeties Matt Elam and Darian Stewart − a group Miami hopes to pick apart come the end of the weekend.
This story was written by Steven Wilson. Follow him on Twitter: @StevenJWilson11