NFL free agency is in full swing, but aside from the depature of William Gay, activity on the South Side has been all but nill.
Nonetheless, the Watch Tower has found fodder to shine its light on.
Mike Wallace has an Attitude Problem?
Everyone knows that Steelers restricted free agent Mike Wallace’s meteoric rise crashed into a brick wall in the middle of the 2011 season. In Pittsburgh parlance, Wallace slipped from looking like a combination of Lynn Swann and John Stallworth to doing more than a fair Will Blackwell imitation.
Explanations for “why” have ranged anywhere from the law of averages to the difficulties of double teams. Mike Tomlin himself offered the later at recent NFL meetings.
However, in explaining his prediction that Wallace would end up signing his one-year tender and stay with the Steelers for 2012 Ed Bouchette offered this expected gem:
Wallace must prove that what happened to him in the second half of the 2011 season was not a fluke, that the change in his attitude was temporary and out of frustration and that he will remain the big star of this receiving corps and not Antonio Brown. [Emphasis added.]
To date, this is the first time a reporter with sources has attributed the drop in Wallace’s play was due to his attitude. Bouchette of course offered no sources, and that’s to be expected, it is highly unlikely that a member of the Steelers organization would question Wallace’s attitude on the record without making major news.
About the only other mainstream print/digital figure to question Wallace was Peter King, who in his Monday Morning Quaterback Column which followed the Steelers Thursday night game vs. the Browns listed Wallace in his “Ten Things I Think I Think:”
a. Mike Wallace’s effort, or lack thereof, blocking on plays he’s not involved in.
The Steelers insist that they’re still trying to come to terms with Wallace for a long term deal – Scott Brown of the Tribune-Review confirmed this in an exclusive interview with Art Rooney II, but the attitude issue is one that bears watching.
Bragging Rights for Fox Sports
As we all know, Hines Ward decided to call it a career and retire as a Pittsburgh Steeler. This news came as some what of a surprise, and FOX Sports deserves credit for breaking it.
In fact, Fox broke the news on their website (which yours truly discovered via Yahoo!) and confirmation of Ward’s retirement was no where to be found on the Post-Gazette, Tribune-Review, ESPN.com, or Sports Illustrated’s websites.
Its indeed possible or rather probable that reporters from these publications were tweeting the news when FOX had the news on their site, but Fox still beat its competitors by a mile on a very big announcement.
Mike Tolbert Headed to Steelers – NOT
For a very short time Mike Tolbert’s impending landing in Pittsburgh was all the rage. The only problem with that story was that it had zero basis in fact.
The rumors were a complete fabrication, most likely purveyed by Tolbert’s agent. Such false stories have become a stable of the pro football news landscape, as detailed by Behind the Steel Curtain’s Neal Coolong. Coolong’s analysis was, I dare say, Watch Towerish in nature.
Confusion Over the Cap
Whether the Steelers can sign any new free agents and/or come to terms with Mike Wallace or retain their other players in large measure depends on how much salary cap space they have available.
Neither the NFL nor the NFLPA publish official salary cap numbers, so fans are dependant on the media for that information.
Fans hoping to know what the Steelers salary cap situation is are out of luck, unfortunately.
Before Casey Hampton’s salary reduction (which only Gerry Dulac insisted on calling a renegotiation) the Steelers either had a million to a million and a half in salary cap space, or 3 or 4 million.
Following Hampton’s decision to “take one for the team” Scottt Brown reported that the Steelers were “6 to 8 million” under the cap while Gerry Dulac reported that the deal left the Steelers with “4.5 to 5 million” in cap space.
Those are significant differences. Fans of course don’t “need” to know what the Steelers salary cap situation is, but if Brown is closer, in fact, to the correct number, then the Steelers have some room to maneuver. If Dulac is right however, they’ll almost certainly need to shed more salary between now and training camp.
Tomlin, Haley, and Arians
No wrap up of the Watch Tower would be complete without a word on Arianshaleygate.
Mike Tomlin spoke for the first time publically about the dismissal of Bruce Arains and the decision to hire Todd Haley. Tomlin claimed not only that the Haley decision was his (which more or less is the conventional wisdom) but also that the Haley decision was also his call – completely.
Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com wasted little time in calling out Tomlin on this one, exposing some of the contradictions between Tomlin’s recent words and other statements attributed to him throughout this process.
Ed Bouchette also got into the act, taking a more nuanced approach which, while stopping short of letting Tomlin completely off the hook, did offer an intepreation of how Tomlin might have been truthful throughout.