The Pittsburgh Steelers are prepared to let wide receiver Mike Wallace test out the free agent market, but is that a wise decision? The Steelers should instead make it one of their top priorities to secure the four-year player.
There is no question Wallace is the best wide receiver on the roster and makes up a dynamic duo with tight end Heath Miller. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is thankful to have both targets, but if he were to lose one of those men, the offense could sputter. Yes, Antonio Brown had a productive 2012 season, but do the Steelers really went to head into 2013 without the presence of Wallace on the field?
The 26-year old will enter free agency with decent numbers, but his statistics might not be good enough to garner him a contract he most likely believes he is worth. Wallace led the Steelers with 836 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. However, his inconsistency in hauling in catches (64 receptions on 119 targets) will certainly be a concern for many teams.
Pittsburgh could get by with Brown and Emmanuel Sanders as both players are capable of handling the starting position, but Wallace makes a world of difference on the gridiron. If the Steelers go into three or four wide receiver sets, the depth at the position falls off drastically. An offense that is going up against some of the best competition in the NFL must figure out a way to retain its playmakers.
An obvious solution to keep Wallace would be to use the franchise tag on him. However, general manager Kevin Colbert has made it perfectly clear that the organization has no intention on franchising anyone this off-season. The fact that Pittsburgh does not feel emotionally attached to any of their players means Wallace will test out free agency, see what he is getting, and then the Steelers will respond with a counter offer if they feel it is within their budget.
Any team that loses their top offensive threat cannot expect to compete in a division that is filled with playoff contenders. If Pittsburgh does let Wallace walk, then they better have a good backup plan to make up serious ground on offense, especially since fans do not want to get beat by their rival the Baltimore Ravens again this year.