The rocky marriage between Mike Wallace and the Pittsburgh Steelers is about ready to end according to reports by Chris Wesseling of NFL.com.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette acknowledges that the Steelers are likely to lose Wallace, who “turned off some in the front office and the coaching staff” with last year’s holdout. The writing has been on the wall since head coach Mike Tomlin demoted Wallace to “co-starter” with Emmanuel Sanders in November. The speedster went on to complain about his role in coordinator Todd Haley’s spread-the-wealth offense while struggling with concentration and effort.
Wallace, who begrudgingly played out 2012 on a restricted free agent one year contract last season, never seemed to embrace his final year with the Steelers. His numbers trailed off dramatically accounting for only 836 yards on 13.1 YPR as he prepared for his walk season. Wallace who had been one of the most difficult to defend deep threats in the league seemed to lose that role completely as the Steelers moved on.
The question for Wallace, who Wesseling indicates could draw interest from the Browns. Bengals, Chiefs, and Dolphins among others, is whether that season hurts him or not. He reportedly turned down $10 million a year, likely looking to match the $55 million dollar deal signed by Vincent Jackson out in Tampa Bay. Though we know nothing of the supposed structure of such a contract offer $10 million a year would rank higher than everyone at the position except Jackson, Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald. Statistically he is closet to Jackson, but, with the exception of Jacksons holdout season in 2010 Jackson never had a productivity decrease similar to what Wallace experienced last year. While I do think some teams will note that the Steelers often walk away from talented players at the position (Sanonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress) and that they may have had reasons to phase him out of the offense, I do think that it will be a concern to some teams.
Wallace will likely be helped by the fact that two other star players at the position- Greg Jennings and Dwayne Bowe- are also free agents and are also coming off down seasons. In Jennings case it was due to injury while Bowe played in an inept and archaic offensive system in Kansas City. I think all three have warning signs but all three will be highly sought after and once one goes the market will be officially set for the other two. Of course if the market is much more limited then the bargaining position could be hurt, but with so many young QB’s in the NFL one would expect there to be many teams bidding for Wallace’s services, which should help him get that Vincent Jackson money he is looking for.