Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace believes he's quickly becoming one of the NFL's best. To prove that, he knows there's one test he still must pass.
That's show he can be successful going against Darrelle Revis, the Jets cornerback who is widely considered to be the NFL's best.
Wallace said Wednesday he's confident he matches up well against Revis, the former Pitt star. Wallace, who replaced Santonio Holmes in the Steelers' lineup when Holmes was traded to the Jets, believes his exceptional speed allows him to go against any defensive back in the league without fear.
Revis said recently he's almost bored because quarterbacks target him so rarely. Wallace, not normally one to say anything that an opposing player could use for motivation, is talking as if he intends to make for an eventful day for Revis when the Jets (9-4) and Steelers (10-3) play Sunday in Pittsburgh.
"I don't care about nobody. He's just another guy. He's a real good player, but, hey, I'm a real good player myself," Wallace said. "I don't fear nobody and I don't back down from nobody. Whoever comes out and lines up, that's who I'm going to be going against."
No doubt Revis doesn't want to have an uncommonly bad day playing before so many friends and family members from nearby Aliquippa, Pa., where he played high school football. There is a chance he could be matched primarily against Hines Ward, the Steelers' leading receiver with 49 catches. But it seems more likely he will regularly be assigned to Wallace.
Wallace led the NFL in average yards per catch last season, and his 20.6 average this season ranks second.
"It's whoever they feel like matches up better against you," Wallace said. "It really doesn't matter to me whether it's him or (Antonio) Cromartie."
Jets coach Rex Ryan isn't offering any hints whether Revis might draw Wallace or Ward when New York plays man coverage — he jokes that he might put him on rookie center Maurkice Pouncey. But Ryan said teams are being smart by not going after Revis.
"They aren't going to throw over there," Ryan said. "He is the best in the game. It's not even close. Initially he had a hamstring (injury) at camp. But, the last couple of weeks, he has been Darrelle Revis."
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin won't dispute that.
"I assume he is that good," Tomlin said, "because I don't have a lot of video evidence — nobody is throwing the ball in his direction."
The Steelers haven't had a dropoff at wide receiver without Holmes, mostly because Wallace has made such a smooth transition from No. 3 receiver to an every-down player. Wallace has 46 catches for 946 yards and eight touchdowns; Holmes has 41 receptions for 620 yards, a 15.1 average and four touchdowns for New York.
Wallace has seen his production drop off slightly the last few games. The second-year receiver from Mississippi had consecutive 100-yard games against the Bengals, Patriots and Raiders from Nov. 8-21, catching a combined four touchdown passes. He has no 100-yard games, and no touchdowns since then — against the Bills, Ravens and Bengals — with a combined 187 yards.
So maybe Wallace was using his own words to motivate himself.
Wallace, who is 6 feet and 199 pounds, has never opposed the 5-11, 198-pound Revis. But he has watched plenty of scouting tape.
"He's right up in your grill, in your face and you've got to beat him," Wallace said. "He's a real good player, but I don't care. A man-to-man situation, when it's me vs. you, it's either who wants it or who's the better player. He's lived up to the hype. But I don't care about none of that. Hype don't mean nothing to me."
To Ward, what really matters when the Steelers oppose the Jets and their No. 3-ranked defense is who wins the game. Not who wins the individual matchups.
"It's not Revis against me or Cromartie against Mike, it's the Steelers vs. the Jets," Ward said. "I'm not going to get caught up in Revis Island or stuff like that. This game is not all about one person, it's about a team. If Revis shuts all of us down and we win, do you think we're going to be sad?"