|As the Steelers prepare for their first preseason game, Wallace remains at home. (US PRESSWIRE)|
It's been 10 days since Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said that the organization would no longer actively negotiate with wide receiver Mike Wallace, suggesting that for talks to resume Wallace would first have to sign his restricted free-agent tender and report to training camp.
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"I think once we made that decision [to cut off negotiations] we're in a different mode and we would have to address any new negotiation if we get to that point," Colbert said at the time.
Well, the team's first week in Latrobe is in the books and its first preseason game is Thursday in Philadelphia. But still no Wallace, and it's not clear when we'll see him. During a radio appearance Monday, Colbert admitted that the two sides haven't communicated recently.
“Yeah there's really no contact," he said according to SportsRadioInterviews.com. "Mike knows where things stand. The next step for him really is to report and to sign his tender, and until that happens, there won't be anything else. And if that happens, nobody knows where it will go from there. So that's where it is and has been, and hopefully it comes to an end sooner rather than later because it will be good for us, but it will also be good for Mike.”
Wallace's tender will pay him $2.7 million in 2012. He's obviously hoping for something well north of that. How far north? Nothing definitive, but there was speculation that he was looking for Vincent Jackson money -- $11 million per year. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly reported last week that Pittsburgh had a five-year, $50 million deal on the table … and Wallace turned it down.
So while talks with Wallace languished, the organization turned its attention to it's other young, big-play wideout: Antonio Brown, who they inked to a five-year, $42 million extension. So did one have anything to do with the other? Not according to Colbert.
“We had actually talked with Antonio's representatives as far back as the Combine because he was entering his third year, and we said, ‘look, listen, during the summer, sometimes during training camp we take care of guys entering the third year of their contract, but we do it in an order,' he said. "We try to take care of guys that are going to be unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents, and then we always move into that next group which Antonio is in. That had been in the works for awhile and really the two are unrelated.”
The bottom line is this: Wallace has virtually no leverage, even if he makes the Steelers' offense substantially more dangerous. Even if he sits out 10 games this season and accrues a year's service to become a free agent in the spring, Pittsburgh can franchise him, and do it again a year later.
And though there isn't any depth beyond Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, the Steelers have plenty of playmakers, starting with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. New offensive coordinator Todd Haley would like to get tight end Heath Miller more involved in the passing game, and rookie fifth-rounder Chris Rainey could be a versatile option out of the backfield and used in a similar way Haley used Dexter McCluster in Kansas City.
Plus, don't forget: Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl with the likes of Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El and Cedrick Wilson as their top three wideouts.
But we're guessing Wallace shows up sooner rather than later because, well, he doesn't have much choice. And if not there's always Plax (we're kidding … we think).
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