|History suggests the Steelers will eventually reward Mike Wallace if he signs and reports. (Getty Images)|
LATROBE, Penn. -- I wrote this before, about six weeks ago to be precise, and I'll write it again, and if logic reigns it will soon become a moot point: Mike Wallace, you need to get back with your teammates. Your holdout is going nowhere. It's well beyond time to get back to Pennsylvania and get back to work.
There isn't really any other choice. This ill-fated holdout is getting Wallace nowhere and the only rational end result -- signing a long-team deal with the Steelers -- has not changed. As the Steelers forged on Sunday at training camp, no one was pining for Mike Wallace. Instead, the business of preparing for a championship season resumed, something this franchise does quite well.
You can't bully the Steelers. The Rooney family won't blink, and they continue to abide by their tried and true tactics in these situations, in this case, no negotiations with Wallace until he gets his butt to Western Pennsylvania. No one is bigger than this team, especially not a highly talented, yet limited receiver who happens to be playing a position where the team enjoys great depth, at a time a new offense is being installed, and with fellow receiver Antonio Brown just receiving a five-year, $42 million extension.
Coach Mike Tomlin, generally unfazed in the face of anything, is not deterred by Wallace's absence. And he's up front with his team about the mentality to adopt.
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"We identify all of these situations as unique ones, and each one stands on its own, and it's part of the process," Tomlin said. "Whether it's through a contractual situation or injuries or suspensions or what have you, one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. We talk about that openly all the time. We acknowledge in this journey we're on, things are going to happen, and others need to seize these opportunities to show what they're capable of. And I think a lot of men here are capable of that."
One player told me that, unequivocally, "We're not the same team without Mike," noting how effective he is by changing defenses as a deep threat whether the ball comes his way or now. They know it's a business, but feel like Wallace is hurting not only himself, but the team, and they wonder about how fit and durable he will be if he has a long layoff.
Now is not the time to be like Mike. It's beyond time that Wallace started to be like Antonio.
Wallace had very little leverage back when he skipped minicamp, and the tide has only swung even more in the Pittsburgh Steelers' favor since then. So, let's get a few things straight right off the bat.
A trade is not the solution here. It would be tricky enough for the Steelers to get fair compensation in the first place, and for Wallace to find a team to meet his demands in the second. But the time for him to determine his market already came and went, when he received no offer sheet as a restricted free agent, and the Steelers ownership and management is not entertaining the idea of dealing the speedy young wideout.
This isn't lip service. This is how the Rooneys roll.
"Mike Wallace is not available for trade," general manager Kevin Colbert told me before practice Sunday, overlooking the bucolic scenery of St. Vincent's College. "We're not even thinking in those terms."
Also, disregard what you might hear about the Brown signing being reactionary to Wallace's holdout. This, too, is another facet of The Rooney Way when it comes to operating their team. Traditionally, they open up talks with top players as camp opens the year they enter the final year of their rookie contracts. Wallace or no Wallace, the Steelers were very much interested in securing Brown and fellow receiver Emanuel Sanders deep into the future, and that never changed.
Sure, the timing is fortuitous, but the Steelers had told Brown long ago they would make an effort to secure his services before the start of the season, and that they did.
You will read plenty about the Steelers and Wallace having a frayed relationship, one that's beyond repair. Again, reader beware. The Steelers wanted Wallace long-term at the start of the offseason, and that has not wavered. It just has to be at the right price point. And money tends to be the great salve for bruised feelings when it comes to the business of football. Far more acrimonious situations have been patched up. The Steelers still want him.
"We haven't changed in that regard at all," Colbert said. "Mike is a great player and we'd love for him to be a Steeler for a long time."
Some will suggest that Pittsburgh's cap crunch will make signing Wallace to a big contract prohibitive. Nope. Not true. Where there is a will, there's a way. "There are always ways to create room if you decide to do it."
There is a budget in place to sign Wallace. And, again, as I advised in this space oh those many weeks ago, Wallace needs to try to get as close as he can to a five-year, $50 million deal -- with $25 million guaranteed -- and call it a day. Wisely, sources said Wallace came off his desire to be paid like a Larry Fitzgerald a few weeks ago, when things were progressing, and trying to get a deal around $11 million a year like Vincent Jackson got from Tampa is the new goal.
But Jackson wasn't just a third-year player when he got paid, and he was an unrestricted free agent and he had already played a partial season vastly underpaid due to the uncapped-season rules and another as a franchise player. Wallace has none of that on his résumé, and the Steelers still could franchise him for two more years. And if he were to sit out an entire season, they would still own his rights and he would be right back where he started.
This isn't like Maurice Jones-Drew making a stand with the Jags, or a franchise player like Dwayne Bowe staying away with his tender unsigned. Wallace is only hurting himself at this point, and the Rooneys have forbidden any negotiations to take place until Wallace shows up. Another long-standing policy. It ain't changing, either.
"Mike understands that for any steps to be taken," Colbert said, "he has to come here and report to camp and sign his tender and then we'll see where it goes."
Where it goes, is where it has always been heading -- a long-term deal around the parameters I put forth. Any staying away is only preventing that payday, and putting Wallace's future on hold.
Camp Rumblings: The Steelers feel optimistic that their offensive line is really ready to take a turn for the better. Willie Colon, a former starting tackle moving to left guard, earned praise from Colbert and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and they feel like Max Starks will help their tackle depth when he eventually gets off the PUP list.
• Haley, taking over for longtime coordinator Bruce Arians, who had a very close relationship with Ben Roethlisberger, said he has to play golf with Big Ben -- they share that passion -- and is gradually getting to know him better. Their chemistry will be a big element to this season, and Haley is much more fiery and demonstrative than what Roethlisberger is used to.
"You can't force that relationship," Haley said. "What I've always told my quarterbacks is, I go by what I see, not what I hear," Haley said. "And I'd expect them to do the same thing."