|There is 'no doubt' in Antonio Brown's mind: Mike Wallace will be in Pittsburgh next season. (US PRESSWIRE)|
It's been nearly a month since free agency began and restricted free agent Mike Wallace remains a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was speculation that a playoff team in desperate need of a wide receiver (the Patriots, 49ers, Ravens and Broncos were often mentioned) would willingly give up a late first-round pick for the right to sign Wallace, one of the league's explosive young talents.
Instead, the Pats signed Brandon Lloyd and have restructured Chad Ochocinco's contract, the 49ers signed Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, the Ravens made it clear at the combine that they likely weren't interested, and the Broncos appear set with their current crop of wideouts.
So what happened? For starters, it's still early.
During a Friday appearance on NFL Network's Total Access, Antonio Brown, another of Steelers young pass-catchers, sounded confident that Wallace would be back in Pittsburgh in 2012.
"I definitely expect it," he said. "I definitely look forward to him providing me help from the other side, rolling coverages -- he's a great teammate of mine."
Host Andrew Siliciano asked Brown if he was absolutely sure. "No doubt in my mind, he's coming back," Brown said.
The Steelers have stated previously that they'd like to lock up Wallace long term, even after his production dropped during the second half of the 2011 season. Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about that at last week's annual league meetings in Florida.
"In many instances, teams took him out of the game," Tomlin said of Wallace via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "When you reel off the kind of seven- to eight-game run that he had there to start the season, that's some scary video for defensive coaches in preparations for games. They responded accordingly. But if you have a good football team, it's going to potentially create opportunities for other ready young men."
Another explanation: Ben Roethlisberger was injured for the final month of the season after suffering a high-ankle sprain against the Browns in Week 14. He essentially played on one leg down the stretch and that affected his accuracy on deep balls, where Wallace is truly dangerous. Either way, the 25-year-old wideout with an 18.7 yards-per-catch average in three NFL seasons, looks like he'll stay in Pittsburgh. If that happens, he'll have a new offensive coordinator, former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley.
Brown was asked about playing for Haley, who is known for an in-your-face coaching style that doesn't suit everybody.
"I heard [Haley] challenges players … and I love that. … You don't allow guys to underachieve. And you find that, with most players in this league, there are a lot of underachievers so he's the type of guy who pushes players and that's something I enjoy. ...
"We're definitely looking forward to Todd Haley … and we're just excited for the fresh start."
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