Our long (Steeler) National nightmare is close to being over.
Uncle Eddy over at the Post-Gazette is reporting that erstwhile Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace is going to sign his tender and report for duty sometime over the weekend. Why not now? Well, the Steelers have yet another pointless exhibition game against the Buffalo Bills which Wallace likely has no interest in playing. If he signed today, there’d be a temptation to get him a handful of snaps on Saturday night.
As loathe as I am to admit it, Wallace played this situation almost perfectly. He sat out training camp thereby missing bed checks, dorm food and the sweltering heat of two-a-days. Or he would have, if the two-a-days were still permitted under the new CBA (still skipped spending two weeks in the sticks that is Latrobe, though). He’ll also miss three of the team’s four pre-season debacles, thereby insuring he begins the season at 100%. After spending the past three weeks compiling injury report after injury report while repeatedly scanning the depth chart looking for any glimmers of hope, I can safely say he may be the smartest guy on the roster.
Reporting over the weekend will ensure Wallace has a couple days of practice before the team’s final exhibition game, the annual FOD (Friends of Dan) Bowl against Rooney’s good buddy, Jerry Richardson, and his Carolina Panthers. He’ll have a couple days to learn a bit of Todd Haley’s new offense (“Just run down the field really fast.”), get a few plays in on Thursday (“Just run down the field really fast.”), then have another week to get ready for the season opener (where he’ll likely spend a lot of time running down the field really fast). No hard feelings.
Where this leaves us with Wallace’s contract, who knows. The Steelers refuse to negotiate during the season which means they’ll have about a two week window to try and get Wallace extended. I don’t expect they will but stranger things have happened. They gave Antonio Brown $42 million reasons to stay in Pittsburgh so they shouldn’t be that far apart with Wallace if it’s true that he’s looking for a Vincent Jackson-type deal. The Steelers aren’t going to give him $55 million although I could see them offering something in the neighborhood of $46-48 million with more money guaranteed than they gave to AB.
Even if he isn’t signed before kickoff time in Denver, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s one-and-done in the Steel City. There’s about a month or so between the Super Bowl and the start of free agency where they could still reach a deal. And failing that, there is always the Franchise tag. I’m not sure it makes sense to tag Wallace since a one year Franchise tag would cost them more than signing him outright (at least $9 million next season) but it beats letting him go for nothing.
Of course, all this worry can wait. For now, it appears Wallace will be back sooner rather than later. Given the depleted nature of the team’s running back corps, his return couldn’t come at a better time. If you can’t pound them into submission on the ground, strafe them through the air. And if you’re going with an aerial bombardment, best to have your fastest F-16 in the hangar.