Of anyone associated with the Pittsburgh Steelers, no one has known Mike Wallace longer than cornerback Keenan Lewis.
Lewis was a high school teammate of Wallace's in Louisiana. This offseason, he worked out with him daily even as the Pro Bowl receiver remained unsigned as a restricted free agent.
After skipping OTAs and minicamps because he was unhappy with the Steelers' $2.7 million one-year tender and wanted a longterm big-money deal, Wallace did not report for the start of Steelers training camp at St. Vincent College Wednesday.
While that has made teammates and fans anxious, Lewis remains confident Wallace will ultimately arrive in Latrobe.
"He's a football player; he loves doing what we do," Lewis said. "So I'm pretty sure he wants to be here with the team, feeling that camaraderie ... We worked all offseason, and he told me he'll be ready to go."
Wallace has remained largely silent about his contract status throughout the offseason, though rumors swirled that he wanted a massive contract in the Larry Fitzgerald (eight years, $120 million) stratosphere.
Reports over the past few days have indicated an agreement on a longterm deal was imminent -- though at a fraction of what Fitzgerald got. Neither Wallace nor agent Bus Cook had publicly stated that Wallace was (or wasn't) going to hold out. Some members of the
Steelers organization were hopeful Wallace would report on time, signing the tender until a long-term deal could be hammered out.
"I'm less concerned about negotiation from a coach's standpoint; I want the player here," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We've extended a tender to him, of course he hasn't signed it, but I'm focused on the guys who are here and working, so I won't focus on him until he gets
Emmanuel Sanders, meanwhile, figures to run with the first-team offense in Wallace's stead. Sanders said Wednesday he feels markedly better at the start of camp this season than he did last year, when a foot injury plagued him virtually all season.