|If Wallace leaves after the season, will another team pay him like a franchise wide receiver? (Getty Images)|
Heading into Week 8, Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace had just 29 receptions for 397 yards. His 13.7 yards-per-catch average was nearly four yards below his career mark. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora wrote at the time that Wallace's stint in Pittsburgh would likely end after the season in part because he "struggled for consistency since coming back from a prolonged holdout, and is no longer the team's top pass-catching option."
Five games later and that hasn't changed. In fact, Wallace admits that focus has become an issue in offensive coordinator Todd Haley's scheme, which doesn't feature a lot of deep passes.
|The home of the Super Bowl|
"I've never been a guy who dropped balls or just lose focus," Wallace told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Thursday. "The first three years I was always involved, so you just warmed up in games, and were just into it.
"But when you don't get the ball for two-and-half quarters, you lose focus. But that's the type of offense this is. We're spreading it around, so you're not going to get as many targets. When you get them, you have to make the best of them."
Wallace isn't complaining, he's just being honest.
The problem, of course, is that he has horrible timing. He held out through the preseason for a long-term deal, the Steelers instead gave it to Antonio Brown, and Wallace was forced to sign his $2.7 million restricted free-agent tender. He was reportedly looking for Vincent Jackson money (five years, $55 million) but Pittsburgh wasn't going to pay that much for a player coach Mike Tomlin jokingly called a "one-trick pony" for his ability to run really fast in a straight line, but who has yet to master the nuances of being an NFL wide receiver.
"The toughest thing is staying positive through three quarters because you're not going to get the ball every time," Wallace continued. "You have to be ready to deliver when it comes your way. That's been the biggest thing I've had to learn this year."
If the Steelers and Wallace part ways after the season, he'll draw plenty of interest in free agency. The only question is if there's a team out there willing to play him close to $11 million a year (assuming that's his asking price). The Dolphins will have the cap space -- and owner Stephen Ross has said that a big-play wideout is a priority -- but would they devote that much money to one player coming off a so-so effort?
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, should be fine. Brown and Emmanuel Sanders have been much more reliable than Wallace this season, and the money saved on Wallace can be put toward re-signing Sanders to a long-term deal.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the Pick-6 Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.