- Associated Press - Thursday, September 29, 2011

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Even if it might just be his greatest asset, Mike Wallace does little to help his own cause.

The Steelers third-year receiver just can’t help himself. To him, hey, “An apple is an apple. You know what I’m saying?”

Wallace tells anyone who asks he’s the fastest player in the NFL.

“I’ve always been feeling like that,” Wallace said, matter-of-factly. “I’m still feeling like that, and I don’t see anything changing.”

Opposing cornerbacks who have faced him won’t argue. After an electrifying five-catch, 144-yard performance in a 23-20 win in Indianapolis on Sunday that included a career-long 81-yard touchdown, Wallace is second in the NFL in receiving yards and tied for third in receptions.

The secret might be getting out on Wallace emerging as one of the league’s best receivers. And Wallace does little to keep his 4.2-speed quiet, either. The irony is that it’s the surprise factor that some say has helped Wallace run past so many defensive backs in his first three seasons as a pro.

“We know it because we play against him all the time,” said Pittsburgh cornerback Bryant McFadden, who concurred Wallace’s assertion he’s the fastest in the league. “A lot of (opposing) guys, I think they get into a situation where they see it on film and they say, ‘Oh, we play against fast guys all the time.’ No, not Mike Wallace fast. And they really don’t respect it like they should until 80 yards later … it’s a touchdown.

“He’s a tremendously super, super fast guy.”

Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said he scripts about five “home run” plays per game in an effort to take advantage of Wallace’s speed _ “and I don’t like to come home with any of them not being called,” he added.

Wallace led the NFL in yards per reception as a rookie and was second in the league in that category last season, when he had 60 receptions for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Dating back to the final three games of last season, Wallace has at least 100 receiving yards in six consecutive regular-season games. That’s a Steelers record, and Wallace can tie the NFL record with his seventh consecutive 100-yard receiving game 1 p.m. Sunday when Pittsburgh (2-1) plays at Houston (2-1).

Still, through it all, somehow Wallace seems to sneak up on opposing defenses _ before he runs right past them.

“I think he keeps surprising people that don’t see him a lot,” Arians said. “Last year, as the games went on, more and more people played deeper and deeper on him (later in the season).”

With new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the Texans’ defense the Steelers will face Sunday prefers man-to-man coverage on receivers, perhaps giving Wallace another opportunity for a big play.

Wallace, who sustained a minor rib injury in the Colts game but is fully practicing this week and will play against the Texans, has 21 catches for 377 yards and two touchdowns through three games.

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