The Pittsburgh Steelers and free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace have yet to agree to a contract with the start of training camp looming less than a week away, though there have been fresh reports that the two sides may be approaching common ground for a long-term deal.
However, beneath the surface of the piles of money he will eventually get is an issue that could have a negative impact on the team’s season ahead if the receiver is out of camp for a significant time. Wallace, a Restricted Free Agent (RFA), is against entering training camp without a new deal. The RFA contract would be worth $2.75 million for 2012. The team would be pleased with that payout but Team Wallace would never risk permanent injury at that price.
Sure, nasty a contract negotiation or a holdout can become a distraction, and while players can only make their money if they actually report and play, giving teams some semblance of leverage, the Steelers may, in fact, need Wallace more than Wallace needs the Steelers.
See, the team has a new offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, who is installing a new system that will feature more play-action passes and a true fullback (converted tight end David Johnson), and he needs his No. 1 receiver signed, sealed and delivered as close to the beginning of training camp as possible. If a Wallace holdout is prolonged, the Steelers will be running Haley’s new offense with Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery; not the worst pairing in the league, but certainly a step below Wallace-and-Brown tandem.
The good news is that the two sides are still talking and Wallace and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have already developed a good rapport. They only need to work on timing now, and the two veterans will be fine as long as they’re on the same page of the new playbook.