By Jeremy Hritz
Mike Wallace has been the primary focus of conversation related to the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason. Unfortunately, as summer winds down, and the calendar inches closer to the Steelers first game in Denver, there has been no resolution achieved. Now, with the contract extension of Antonio Brown, and contract talks reportedly off of the table due to Wallace’s absence from training camp, the conclusion to this saga is shrouded in mystery more than ever.
Back in February in an interview with Adam Schein and Jim Miller, Wallace said that he wanted to remain in Pittsburgh, but that he was open to other options: “My heart is definitely in Pittsburgh. That’s where I would like to be at, but we all know that it’s a business and you have certain things that you have to handle. So if I have to go elsewhere, you know Pittsburgh will always be in my heart, but I have to do what I have to do.” You have to wonder, now, just how much his heart is in Pittsburgh after Brown not only signed a new contract, but also celebrated it with a press conference. As Dave Bryan put it on Twitter, “The press conference today, was no accident. This was like purposefully getting caught with a hot chick to make your ex jealous.”
There are currently four outcomes that can emerge from Wallace’s situation. They are:
1) Wallace signs his tender, reports to camp, plays out the season, and enters free agency at the end of the year.
2) Wallace waits until week 11, signs his tender, finishes out the season, and enters free agency.
3) Wallace signs his tender, reports to camp, and works out a new contract with the Steelers.
4) The Steelers decide to trade Wallace, he signs his tender, and then is shipped off to another team who is willing to break the bank.
Let’s take a brief look at each scenario and its likelihood.
Scenario #1: Wallace signs his tender, reports to camp, plays out the season, and enters free agency at the end of the season.
Prior to the Brown signing, this seemed to be a possibility, but would Wallace have a chip on his shoulder and feel slighted, playing for less money than his teammate? Additionally, signing his tender would not provide for any security in the event of a significant injury, and there would definitely be questions regarding Wallace’s attitude and whether or not his displeasure would prove detrimental to team chemistry. This scenario would be risky for both Wallace and the Steelers.
Scenario # 2: Wallace waits until week 11, signs his tender, finishes out the season, and enters free agency.
Very similar to the first scenario, but Wallace’s lengthy absence in this instance would create even greater hostility between Wallace and the Steelers. I believe that there is a greater likelihood for the Steelers to trade Wallace before they would let this scenario actualize.
Scenario # 3: Wallace signs his tender, reports to camp, and works out a new contract with the Steelers.
This is the ideal scenario for both Wallace and the Steelers, and one that management, coaches, teammates, and fans sincerely want. However, do the Steelers have the financial artillery to make a contract agreeable to Wallace happen? And, does Wallace still want to be a Steeler after the ceremonious extension of Brown?
Scenario # 4: The Steelers decide to trade Wallace, he signs his tender, and then is shipped off to another team who is willing to break the bank, despite Kevin Colbert saying the team wouldn\’t.
This is the current hot topic surrounding Wallace, ignited by the Brown extension, and intensified by Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bouchette stated Saturday morning, “The only good way out of this for both sides would be for the Steelers to trade Mike Wallace.” There are a few questions that arise when considering trading Wallace. Would it set a precedent that players can force the Steelers hand if they are unhappy with their contract status? Would the Steelers be able to find a suitor for Wallace that would be willing to offer worthy compensation?
The way the Wallace situation has been dragging on, the end may not be anywhere in view. Is it reasonable to believe that if the Steelers truly wanted to re-sign Wallace, they would do whatever it takes to get a contract done? The underlying message in all of this could be that the Steelers just don’t believe that Wallace is worth what he is asking, and they are unwilling to give it to him. Maybe in the end, the best possible solution is trading Wallace and acquiring either a high draft pick, or a player capable of coming to the Steelers and contributing. It isn’t out of the question considering what Wallace brings to his position.
If Wallace is traded, despite Colbert claiming that he wouldn\’t be, the Steelers will be just fine. Earlier in the year, I wrote about the success that the team has had with lesser receivers than what the Steelers have now. Ultimately, his absence will not make or break the 2012 season, and with the success that the Steelers have had in drafting receivers in the later rounds, all is not lost.
Normally, I would conclude an article on Wallace by saying that the end is near, but I have been without luck. Today, I’ll try another approach. The Wallace situation is going to drag on and on, and there is no end in sight.
Here’s to hoping it has the opposite effect.