Yards adding up for Wallace

After opening the season by gaining more than 100 yards receiving in three consecutive games, Mike Wallace has been held to 77 and 82 yards in the last two games.

Despite that he is still currently ranked third overall in the NFL with 536 receiving yards, behind only New England's Wes Welker (740 yards) and Carolina's Steve Smith (609 yards).

Wallace would love nothing more than to be leading in that category, not for his own personal benefit, but because it would mean he is making key contributions to the offense.

"It would mean I am playing good ball for my team," said Wallace. "As long as I was leading in a good way, not when losing games, then it means I am doing good and we are on the right track."

Gaining that lead won't be an easy task. Welker has over a 200 yard lead, but it's something the confident third-year guy won't give up on, knowing he needs to get some run after catch yards on short pass patterns, making something out of nothing.

"I have to do some work," said Wallace. "I have to take some of those short ones. I have to. If I don't do that I don't have a chance. Wes is a great player, he has a great quarterback, and he is on a great pace.

"It's all the run after catch yards. That is what he has always done. This year he is taking it to another level. I didn't think it was possible the way he has always played for him to take it to another level. It's crazy."

Wallace has been getting more work in the short passing game, with five of his receptions against the Titans accounting for 42 yards, before he went deep for a 40-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.

"We did a lot of short passes," said Wallace of the Titans game. "It made the defense come up some and that is what opened up the deep pass. When we have the running game and short pass going, it opens up the deep pass.

"Hopefully we can get some long ones in this week. I like those a little better than the short ones. Those are cool too, though."

One thing that might make it tough on Wallace is with his emergence in the passing game he is now being double-teamed, making it tougher for Ben Roethlisberger to get the ball to him.

"They are doubling, rolling guys up to him," said Roethlisberger. "It's getting harder and harder to get him the ball. We've got to find ways to do it. It may come down to the fourth quarter when he catches deep balls like that. I always tell him stay with me. We'll get you the ball. As a selfless team player like he is I don't think he minds because it means other guys are open and if that's how we win the game, that's how we win the game."

By putting two guys on Wallace things opened up for Hines Ward and Heath Miller against the Titans. Ward had a season-high seven receptions, while Miller added three receptions.

"Hopefully they will stop doing it so I can get off a little bit more," said Wallace of the double team. "When they do that it opens it up for everyone else. Hines had a good game, Heath had a good game. We got the win and that's all that really matters."

Nose tackle Chris Hoke started his 17th regular season game this past Sunday, filling in for injured Casey Hampton against the Titans. And has been the case 15 times in the past, when Hoke started the Steelers won.

The Steelers sport a 16-1 record when Hoke starts, something his teammates were teasing him about when it was brought up on Wednesday.

"I have known it, but it has nothing to do with me," said Hoke. "It's about guys knowing Casey is not in the game. They know they have to step up their game because Casey is the linchpin in the middle."

In his 10th season Hoke has provided depth in the middle of the defensive line, stepping in whenever called upon whether it is to start or just spell Hampton for a series or two.

"He is a great veteran guy," said linebacker James Farrior. "He has been in this system for 10 years and learned a lot from Casey. He has used that to his advantage. When his name is called he is prepared to come in and do a good job."

Hoke credits the preparation by defensive line coach John Mitchell for having all of the linemen ready to go if needed.

"Since I have been here the coaches have done a great job of not only coaching the starters, but the guys behind them," said Hoke. "They know the back-up is only one play away from being a starter. Coach Mitchell prepares every defensive lineman like they are starting. He coaches us like a starter, is on us about the game plan and the technique, so when it's your opportunity, you are ready to go."

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio grew up an Oakland Raiders fan, but he always had respect for the Steelers, in particular their linebackers in the 1970s.

"I was a young linebacker and watching that trio that they had there with (Jack) Lambert in middle and all of that," said Del Rio. "In fact, I have those three guys on the wall in my office. I admired them for a long time.

"I've got a picture of the starting linebackers from back then. I've got right next to them the three that I coached in Baltimore: Ray Lewis, Jamie Sharper and Peter Boulware. It's just respect for a group that was awfully good back then and a group that was awfully good when I coached in Baltimore and just some pictures that I have collected over the years."

Steelers Injury Update:  Eight players did not practice on Wednesday, including T Marcus Gilbert (shoulder), NT Casey Hampton (shoulder), LB James Harrison (eye), G Chris Kemoeatu (knee), RB Mewelde Moore (ankle), DE Aaron Smith (foot), WR Hines Ward (not injury related), and LB Jason Worilds (quadriceps). In addition CB Cortez Allen (ankle) and S Ryan Clark (quadriceps) were limited in practice.

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