It may seem like a decade ago, but it really was just this past summer and entire preseason where Pittsburgh Steelers’ wideout Mike Wallace sat out in a contract dispute with the team. Wallace certainly didn’t do himself any favors with the fan base, but I think in general, many fans understood what Wallace was doing as other players in the league went down with injuries in the preseason.
Entering Sunday’s game against Washington, Wallace was coming off a four-drop performance against Cincinnati and desperately needed to re-focus his attention on simply catching the football. That’s exactly what Wallace did in collecting seven receptions for 62 yards. He was targeted nine times on the day by Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Perhaps the bigger number for the fans was ‘zero drops,’ but from his post-game comments, the number Wallace was concerned about may have also been ‘zero.’ As in ‘zero’ touchdown receptions.
Yesterday on my weekly appearance on Trib-Live Radio with Daniel Dudley (incredibly shameless plug and I don’t care) he brought up Wallace’s comments to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Joe Starkey following the win over the Redskins. The comments were anything but what you may have expected from a guy who at least for one week, re-established himself as a solid NFL receiver.
Wallace told Starkey that he “felt like he wasn’t part of the game plan” and in those comments he sounded completely dejected. Almost like a guy who had been on the losing end and may have had several drops. Ironically, that was probably the feeling in the ‘Skins locker room…
What concerns me as a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers is that this may in fact be the beginning of a tiny fire that could end up in a full-blown five-alarm fire. It’s no secret that Wallace believes he deserves a very expensive new contract from the Steelers or perhaps someone else. Whether or not that number approaches “Larry Fitzgerald money” is debatable but perhaps Wallace should look at Fitzgerald for another example of why the grass isn’t always greener.
Fitzgerald could have sought big money elsewhere but stayed in Arizona and now he’s stuck with quarterbacks who can’t get him the ball. Take note of that when you hit the market Mike… You have a QB who can get you the ball already.
What Wallace knows is what every other front office in the league knows and that is that you can’t teach speed and Wallace has it. Is he being underutilized in the Todd Haley ‘dink and dunk’ offense? You could certainly make that argument because Wallace is definitely a guy who enjoys being the vertical threat and there isn’t much of that in Haley’s offense.
Before Wallace starts pouring gas on the fire he has seemingly started, he should consider something else. Although he may not be used as a deep threat as much under Haley, he is being allowed to show that he can be a complete receiver by going over the middle, learning to settle in zones and how to run crisp routes. I really don’t know what the market will provide for Wallace, but I feel confident the Steelers will make him a very fair offer.
I just hope he hasn’t become a problem in the locker room of a team that seems to be coming together a bit right now. Football is indeed a business at the professional level and I would never tell Wallace or any other player not to do what they believe is right in terms of protecting his own investment, but Wallace can do this without burning the men in the locker room too. Someone just make sure they have the extinguisher at the ready.