Welcome Back to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Wallace!

By Curt Popejoy
Big news today for Pittsburgh Steelers fans.  I first reported last weekend that Mike Wallace was ready to report and planned to do so after the Pittsburgh Steelers third preseason game.  And right on schedule, mostly, Wallace is in Pittsburgh and ready to get back to work, just days before the start of the 2012 NFL season.  But why did all this have to happen?
Call me a cynic, but I have always felt like holdouts were as much about self-preservation as it was about financial gain.  In the case of Wallace, the Steelers offered the restricted free agent a $2.7ish million dollar tender, which is flatly refused to sign.  At that point, had a team come to Wallace and the Steelers and offered him a contract, the Steelers would have had the chance to match, and if not, get a first round pick as compensation.  But that didn’t happen.  Instead Wallace sat.  And sat.  And sat.
But why?  The Steelers made it pretty clear early on that there would be no contract extension and they expected Wallace to be there with his teammates working on mastering the new offensive system and preparing for a big season.  I think Wallace sitting was a stroke of genius.  Just ask Steelers guard David DeCastro.  Wallace wants that long term, big money extension and assuming he can continue to develop as a player, that extension will come, whether it’s with the Steelers or another team.

So Wallace, I assume, made the conscious choice to protect himself. His investment in himself and not put his body and his future at risk.  I can never fault a guy for that.  The value of the preseason, when weighed against the potential harm, seems to be so skewed in the wrong direction. There has to be a fix for this.  I’m sure Wallace figured out fairly quickly it was sign the tender or not play.  But why not hold out?  Let’s not kid ourselves, the offense the Steelers are running now is not overly complicated and Wallace already has a nice rapport with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, so it’s not a matter of reps.  I won’t be at all surprised if more and more players do this very thing, just to keep themselves out of harms way.

What will the return of Wallace mean for the Steelers offense?  Adding Wallace along with fellow deep threat Antonio Brown and speedy rookie running back Chris Rainey is mean the Steelers have the fastest core of skill players in the league.  This team is going to have problems with both the offensive line and the running game due to injuries, so Roethilsberger is going to lean heavily on the passing game and Wallace is of course his favorite target.  Wallace is one of the most exciting and dynamic players in the NFL and I’m excited to have him back in the fold.

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