The Mayans predicted 2012 would be the end of the world as we know it. No word on whether they predicted August 17th, 2012 would be the end of Mike Wallace‘s hold out. Whether Wallace finally signs his tender and reports for work tomorrow or not, word around the Pittsburgh Steelers is that it’s only a matter of time. The finish line is within sight.
The timing certainly makes sense. The Steelers break camp this afternoon and head back down to the Southside for the last couple weeks of the pre-season. It’s not entirely uncommon for players to hold out just long enough to skip spending two weeks sleeping on St. Vincent’s crusty old bunk beds only to magically reverse course once things shift back to the team’s state of the art practice facility. If that was indeed Wallace’s plan, well, I can’t exactly say I blame him.
The atmosphere at St. Vincent’s must be unbearable. How else to explain the fact no less than NINE separate fights have broken out in practice. Antonio Brown and Ike Taylor squared off in two wrasslin’ matches with Art Rooney II stepping in to help separate them on one occasion. I imagine the last time Deuce got physically involved in an altercation was when Winthrope challenged the legality of Pierpoint’s croquet mallet at the Allegheny Club.
While Ike and AB have been re-enacting UFC 150 up in Latrobe, Wallace has been keeping busy down in Florida. In a story even odder than Troy Polamalu working out with Todd Marinovich’s insane father, Wallace has been training with Ike’s “speed coach” over in Orlando. Ike has even let Wallace crash at his house and borrow his car. They must be pretty good friends because I won’t even let my brother drive my car.
Wallace’s antics may have angered some members of Steeler Nation but apparently his teammates bear him no ill will. “Whenever he gets back, we’re going to welcome him back with open arms.” sayeth Ike. Manny Sanders, who will be the receiver whose playing time is cut most dramatically when Wallace gets back, seemed almost giddy about his impending return: “I am looking forward to seeing him, hopefully soon rather than later.” While Sanders said he hadn’t talked to Wallace and had no solid information about his return, he did confirm the swirling rumors by saying “There’s a little buzz around the team that he’ll be coming back pretty soon.”
Having Wallace sign his tender and report for duty would be a big step in the right direction. However, unless he signs a last minute contract extension (highly unlikely), some level of distraction will remain all year long. If he has a great season, questions will be asked if the Steelers plan to Franchise him at season’s end. If he has poor showing, the Yinzers will get on him for asking a lot but producing very little. Then there will always be the whispers whether the Steelers assured Wallace they wouldn’t Franchise him if he agreed to be a good solider and play out his final year without further fuss.
Whatever happens, step one is getting #17 back in the Black and Gold by September 9th. And it’s looking like that’s gonna happen with plenty of time to spare.