Free Agent Mike Wallace All But Certain to Leave Steelers

A year ago the Steelers wanted to lock Mike Wallace up to a long-term deal that would keep him in Pittsburgh for the prime years of his career.

Wallace declined, feeling he deserved Larry Fitzgerald type money and opted to hold out in favor of entering the free agent market in 2013.

That time has arrived.

  • Has Steelers Nation seen the last of Mike Wallace in Black and Gold?

Most likely it has.

Mike Wallace came to Pittsburgh as 3rd round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and quickly showed himself as one of the fastest receivers in the league. Wallace in fact made one of the most dramatic catches of the year sealing the Steelers last second victory over the Green Bay Packers.

With catches like the one above (available as of 3/5/13) there’s no wonder his teammates voted Mike Wallace Steelers Rookie of the Year in 2009.

Santonio Holmes legal issues earned him a ticket out of town during the Steelers nightmare 2010 off season, elevating Mike Wallace to the starting role.

The question with Wallace was how would he cope with becoming the focus of opposing team’s pass defenses? Wallace responded by showing that he was a home run threat on any given play,

  • finishing the season an astounding 21 yards per catch average
  • scoring touchdowns on catches of 46, 53, 39, 33, 52, 43, and 56 yards

Mike Wallace’s stat sheet indicated that sky was the proverbial limit. Unfortunately it wasn’t.

  • The playoffs have proven to be Mike Wallace’s limit.

During playoff games vs. Baltimore, New York and in Super Bowl XLV, Mike Wallace struggled dearly to gain separation from the secondary. He only scored one touchdown, made two catches over 20 yards, and posted an 8.8 yards per catch average.

But Wallace again seemed to shrug that off in 2011 as he torched opposing defenses for touchdown grabs of 40, 81 and 95 yards.

But a funny thing happened in the second half of 2011. Antonio Brown emerged as a receiver who simply caught everything (this was 2011, remember folks), and increasingly when Ben Roethlisberger needed a completion on third down Brown became his go-to guy.

Wallace’s production dropped dramatically. To Make matters worse, Mike Wallace dropped what could have been a game changer in the 2011 Steelers playoff loss to Denver.

While no one has ever gone on the record saying this, a number of reporters have written that the Steelers management was concerned that Wallace’s attitude lay at the root of his drop in production.

The 2012 season confirmed that what the Pittsburgh Steelers have seen of Mike Wallace was what they were going to get:

  • A legitimate “he can go all the way on any play” threat
  • A receiver who stretches the field, opening routes for players like Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Heath Miller
  • A player who can’t quite be counted on to make consistent or tough catches
  • Someone, who by his own admission, “checked out mentally at times”

When Wallace extended his hold out into training camp, the Steelers wasted little time in signing Brown to a similar deal. Nothing they’ve seen has caused them to regret that move.

Scenario that Sees Mike Wallace Returning to the Steelers

Make no mistake. The Pittsburgh Steelers offense will suffer in the absence of Mike Wallace. Defenses were forced to respect his speed, as he could likely outrace between 90 and 90% of the league’s defensive backs. And often enough, Mike Wallace made good on his threat to score deep down field.

  • Could he be back in Pittsburgh? 

It’s doubtful, but Peter King has suggested that NFL personnel professionals do fear that Wallace might have priced himself out of the market.

If Wallace really does insist on Larry Fitzgerald money he could easily remain unsigned after the draft, and by that time most teams salary cap space will be gone.

But that is unlikely as reports have tied Wallace to Miami and 10-12 million dollar a year contracts are difficult to turn down even for those greedy enough to expect more.

Thanks for visiting. Click here for the rest of Steel Curtain Rising or here to see our Steelers 2013 Free Agent Focus.

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