Pittsburgh felt it had one of the best receiving corps in the NFL last season, and they could have another good one again in 2012, but the next month will be a precarious one for them in that regard.
Mike Wallace still has not received an offer as a restricted free agent and Jerricho Cotchery remains an unrestricted free agent. To lose both would devastate the Steelers' receivers and leave them with just two - Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
The Steelers would like to have both Wallace and Cotchery back, and if they do return it will give them two potentially spectacular receivers in Wallace and Brown, a Hines Ward-like player in Cotchery and a young, gifted receiver in Sanders whose only drawback in his first two seasons in the league has been injuries.
Ward retired this week, and he's well aware of the spot his old team could find itself in if Wallace leaves.
He said, "That is a scary situation, it's a crapshoot. You don't really know what's going to happen, what offers might be out there. There may be a team no one really knows about to step up and offer big money.
"The Denver Broncos, they still have plenty of money left. You never know. I don't want to see Mike go. I think he can do something special in Pittsburgh, but he has to do what's best for Mike."
Pittsburgh has been trying to re-sign Cotchery and have held talks with Wallace, who is looking for big money from whoever will give it to him. The Sacramento Bee reported this week that the 49ers inquired about Wallace and were told that it would take more than Larry Fitzgerald's contract, of eight years, $120 million. Cotchery was a former starter with the New York Jets who lost that job after the Jets added former Steelers Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress. He begged out of his contract last year and the Steelers snapped him up during the limited free-agency period on a one-year deal.
He came on by the end of the season, bypassing Ward on the depth chart and essentially doing Ward's job in the slot. He'd be their most veteran receiver if he returns. However, Cotchery wants more money and better job status than he can get with the Steelers, even though he said he would like to return. If Wallace comes back, Cotchery could find himself as the No. 4 receiver in Pittsburgh if he re-signs with them.
Wallace's asking price might be too high for other teams, especially since he would also cost them a first-round draft choice. The 49ers reportedly were scared off by his asking price.
The most likely scenario for him is that he plays with the Steelers for the one-year tender of $2.742 million and becomes an unrestricted free agent next year.
There are few places for the Steelers to find the receivers they would need if they lost both Wallace and Cotchery. There isn't much left of the free-agent crop, so that would leave the draft, and it's unlikely they will find someone to help them quickly.
With Rashard Mendenhall perhaps out of the equation after his January ACL surgery, and a shaky offensive line, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could find a double-whammy of a poor receiving corps and ground game.
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