Watching Mike Wallace’s first game in Heinz Field as an opponent felt awkward.
The narrative existed, certainly.
Pittsburgh picked him in the third round of 2009’s draft and he went on to catch 235 passes for 4,025 yards and 32 touchdowns in the Steel City.
You held your breath every time Ben Roethlisberger threw a deep ball to Mike Wallace because you knew that with his speed anything was possible.
For some reason, though, Wallace was never universally revered in Pittsburgh.
He broke onto the scene as a blazing rookie during the tail end of Hines Wards’ legendary career.
Hard to attract more adoration than a wide receiver that somehow embodied what it meant to be a Steeler even in the most un-Steeler-like position.
No 80-yard bomb will ever mean more to Pittsburgh than that massive of a hit.
And Ward did it repeatedly. Not all of them were clean, but still.
Wallace emerged as Pittsburgh’s unquestioned No. 1 receiver after the Steelers traded Santonio Holmes (Super Bowl XLII MVP) to the Jets.
Even then, he was more of a speed and finesse receiver compared to Ward’s raw power.
Wallace’s contract holdout in 2012 soured him to the organization and part of Pittsburgh’s fan base before he bolted to Miami prior to this season.
That sort of return for a recent-season franchise leader usually sparks a fan reaction.
It’s not Peyton Manning coming back to Indianapolis, but Wallace did a lot of good in Pittsburgh.
Once the game kicked off, though, it didn’t seem to matter. He was just another opposing wideout.
Wallace didn’t do much to focus the conversation on himself, either.
Tannehill didn’t throw it his way until he launched a deep ball with 4:07 left in the first quarter.
He didn’t make his first reception until there was 10:34 remaining in the second quarter.
Fans in Heinz Field booed, but it didn’t feel like there was much malice behind it.
They went through the motions like an estranged lover.
Wallace then made a second catch immediately afterward to help set up Miami’s first touchdown.
He didn’t catch another pass for the rest of the game.
Charles Clay struck more fear in Pittsburgh’s defense with his five catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 2:53 left.
Pittsburgh fans weren’t angry at Mike Wallace. They didn’t even miss him.
They know they have better.
Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, Heath Miller and Emmanuel Sanders all finished with at least as many catches as Wallace and all four had more yards.
The three receivers all caught touchdowns compared to Wallace’s goose egg.
Brown has made the biggest contribution to Steelers’ fans post-Wallace amnesia.
He ranks second in the league with 85 catches to go along with 1,103 yards and six touchdowns compared to 56 catches for 743 yards and three touchdowns for Wallace.
You don’t boo your ex when you’re with someone better in every way.
Brown is two years younger than Wallace.
His contract will cost Pittsburgh $2.2 million less (side note: Antonio Brown probably deserves a raise).
That’s what you call value from an organization that knows how to build through the draft and move on from players that don’t quite fit anymore.
We’ll see another one next week in James Harrison.
His reception, though, probably won’t be as indifferent.