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Has Wallace priced himself out of the market?

If you’re a Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan then you’ve likely been asked the following question; “So is Mike Wallace going anywhere?” We may now be able to provide some evidence as to why Wallace has stayed put to this point and it didn’t surprise me one bit.

Mike Wallace wants to get paid. He allegedly wants to be paid A LOT. If we are to believe the story as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette in his ‘Plus’ section  that Wallace wants a contract in the neighborhood of Larry Fitzgerald then you need not worry about Wallace going anywhere; for this year at least.

Bouchette is reporting that Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee claims the San Francisco 49ers inquired about Wallace during the first week of free agency. The Niners were told that Wallace is seeking a contract in the ballpark of seven years for $120 million dollars.

I like Mike Wallace. I like what Wallace brings to the table in terms of his speed and abilities. I remember seeing him at training camp in 2009 and thinking, “This kid has a future in pro football.” With that said, Mike Wallace is not worth $120 million today. He could be in the future, maybe, but not today.

While I don’t agree with some that Wallace is a one-trick pony who runs the go-route and that’s it, I do believe he has much to work on before he can ever ask for money that is reserved for the very best in the league. Wallace has to improve in a couple of key areas before he can demand such a contract.

First, Wallace has to learn how to ‘play defense.’ Ben Roethlisberger is a great quarterback, but not every pass is perfect. Go back and look at some of the passes that were broken up or intercepted when thrown in Wallace’s direction. He has to learn how to protect Roethlisberger by being more aggressive in those situations.

Wallace must improve his route-running as well. We all know he can run the ‘go’ route and can catch screen passes at will, but he has to learn how to find the holes in the zones by sitting down and sliding rather than being impatient. The other area is ‘going across the middle.’ Can’t say I blame Wallace because this is where linebackers and safeties are waiting to take off his head, but he has to be able to run those 15 yard ‘in’ routes with more conviction. Yes, there are times when he comes very shallow across the middle, but he can be just as affective on the deeper crossing routes.

The final thing we need to see from Mike Wallace before he can be the next Larry Fitzgerald is consistency. He had a Pro Bowl season in 2011, but most of those stats came in the first eight games. Over the final half of the season Wallace averaged less than 50 yards receiving per game. Roethlisberger’s health certainly contributed to that, but those are pedestrian numbers compared to some of the more well-paid receivers in the league.

Mike Wallace makes the Steelers’ offense better than if they were without him. This is common knowledge, but Wallace has to step his game up if he truly believes he is worth $120 million dollars. The late Al Davis believed strongly that speed was always the most important factor on the field for a receiver. The Raiders have not won a Super Bowl since the 1980’s so perhaps speed isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

The real downside for Steelers’ fans is that another good year from Wallace will put him closer to those alleged contract demands. It also means he is as good as gone because it is very unlikely the Steelers would pay him or any other receiver that much money, especially with Antonio Brown needing a new deal in 2013 too.

I love what Mike Wallace has done since I saw him that day at camp in Latrobe and hope to continue seeing it. I also realize however, that his demands likely mean this year could be his last as a Steeler so take time to enjoy Steeler Nation. He could be gone in a flash.

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