Training is just a few short days away now, as the Steelers will report to Latrobe on July 25th. It’s the day we’ve all been waiting for since that dreadful torching of our beloved defense ended what we all thought was a promising post season for 2011.
Fast forward to today and the Steelers still have 2 glaring issues facing them that they would love to have resolved before the players report this week. Mike Wallace is still unsigned and holding out for what many believe is a $100 million contract number that he believes he’s worth. First round draft pick David DeCastro still is unsigned as well. Each with their own different situations but if they don’t sign, it won’t matter what the reason is because it starts to get real this week. Missing training camp is no joke, especially for rookies.
Omar Khan & the Rooney’s have a great track record of getting their players into camp on time, even if they have to cut it close. This year is one of those years. For my money the more important of the two right now is definitely DeCastro. Fortunately he hasn’t missed any really significant time with the team so far; even with being in school until June and missing the OTA’s, it’s not the end of the world. He’s had his playbook since then and was at the mandatory mini camp with the rest of the team (minus Wallace). Now though it’s time to get this done with the big man out of Stanford.
While the offensive line coach Sean Kugler and head coach Mike Tomlin will never outwardly admit it completely, everybody knows that DeCastro is penciled in as a starter this year. Veteran Chris Kemoeatu is gone and there’s a vacancy on the left side and Ramon Foster’s job on the right is up for grabs as well. So it’s the prime time to insert a new first round draft pick who many feel is the next Alan Faneca, but that all starts with getting him into camp on time when they can start the hitting and really getting a feel for what life in the NFL is going to be like. Plus you want him to get as many reps in as possible because those preseason games come quickly and there’s no better test than being right in the fire.
Now that Jonathan Scott is released, and there is about $6 million in cap space to play with for the team, it’s enough to sign both DeCastro and Wallace. If the holdup for the rookie was money, then we should expect to see DeCastro sign within the next 24-48 hours because the team can definitely afford both right now. It wouldn’t be a matter of how much he’s getting overall, the new rookie wage scale takes care of that for the most part. However if it’s still due to the dreaded wording of the deal in terms of his final year being guaranteed or not, then it is possible that the holdout could last longer. I’m guessing it was a combination of the two factors and with camp bearing down on them, there is a heightened sense of urgency.
The Steelers never go into panic mode with contracts no matter who it is, but they do like to have things done with their rookies because every day missed is a day they get further behind. For DeCastro, those days could mean the difference between him being ready to go in week 1 or not.
Even though we’ve focused mainly on DeCastro, the team certainly has not forgotten about Mike Wallace. Even if the talks were rumored to be a standstill for weeks now, they have been in constant contact with Bus Cook (Wallace’s agent) and Mike himself. Only those parties know what kind of money #17 is looking for but if it is anywhere near that rumored $100 million plus range, he’s going to have to come down in his demands. It’s as simple as that.
Even though the Steelers hold the cards here with Wallace, he has been perfectly content to sit out the entire offseason knowing full well that the offense is undergoing a major change. Everybody has been in camp and at the workouts with new coordinator Todd Haley as they work on the new scheme with Ben Roethlisberger. Learning the terminology is difficult enough when all you’ve ever known is one type of offense. That can be overcome though with a lot of study time and repetition, but the main thing is the timing. Sure both Roethlisberger and Wallace know each other well but the role that he, Wallace, plays is one where he is the big play threat on the team. That type of ability requires accurate timing between both parties, even being off by a yard or two can make the difference between a completion and a missed opportunity.
As long as Wallace can get signed to some type of deal before preseason starts, they can work on that timing before the regular season. If we get through the first 2 preseason games and he’s still not there, then the real possibility of Emmanuel Sanders getting more playing time over Wallace (atleast initially) isn’t the most far fetched idea you’ll ever hear. Just file that one away for a “just in case scenario”.
All in all, David DeCastro is the priority simply from a standpoint of needing all the reps he can being new to the league but Wallace is a close second in my book.