The spring holdout of Mike Wallace could be nothing compared to the potential absences at wide receiver a year from now when both Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders find themselves in the same situation as restricted free agents.
Wallace may be paving the way for the duo in his struggles to negotiate a long-term contract with the Steelers above the $2.74 million one-year contract tender he has declined to sign. Indeed, Brown said he is taking notes and learning from Wallace's actions, and he has come to a conclusion.
"Whatever the case may be, I plan on being here," Brown said Thursday as the Steelers hit the halfway point of their spring practices with two more weeks to go.
Steelers Report: Workout includes quarterback 'competition'
The PG's Ed Bouchette talks about tthe Steelers' workouts on the South Side. (Video by Peter Diana; 5/31/2012)
There is conjecture that one reason the Steelers and Wallace have not come to terms on a multiple-year contract is Brown, who nearly matched Wallace's production in the last season and joined him in the Pro Bowl.
Whatever the Steelers might pay Wallace, that theory goes, would set the bar for what Brown -- and perhaps Sanders -- would expect in 2013.
Brown started only three games but had a phenomenal second half of last season to finish with 69 receptions for 1,108 yards, just behind Wallace's team-leading 72 catches for 1,193 yards.
Wallace, off to a hot start, tailed off in the second half last season, yet made his first Pro Bowl in his third season. Brown also made his first in his second season, but as the AFC's return specialist. He also played as a receiver after being chosen fifth overall in the balloting.
He does not offer opinions on Wallace's spring holdout but has followed it closely.
"It's definitely a learning process for me, being that I could be faced with the same circumstances next year," said Brown, a sixth-round pick in '10 from Central Michigan. "I tend to learn from it, take notes."
Sanders was projected to be the better of the two by virtue of his third-round selection by the Steelers in '10. He had a more productive rookie season than Brown with 28 receptions (16 for Brown) for 376 yards (167).
Injuries, though, cut deeply into Sanders' playing time last season, starting with surgeries on both feet more than a year ago. Another foot surgery was needed in training camp, and then knee surgery followed during the season.
"Having a great start in the National Football League on the right foot and having a great season and then coming back and having the injury bug my sophomore year was definitely frustrating," Sanders said.
He really didn't have a chance to start out on the right or left foot last year because of his injuries, but he says he is "100 percent" now, although screws remain in his feet.
If he can consistently perform the way he did in the playoff at Denver, when he led the Steelers with six receptions for 81 yards, the duo of Brown and Sanders might make the loss of Wallace not hurt so much if that happens next year.
"I definitely had a good game,'' Sanders said of the playoff loss. "I still had fluid in my knee, my foot wasn't all the way there. I don't know if that was the real me. I was fortunate to have a great game, got a lot of attempts at making plays. Now that I'm 100 percent healthy, hopefully, when the season comes, I can continue where I left off in Denver."
It is possible the little quick men like Brown and Sanders will benefit more in Todd Haley's new offense with its emphasis on releasing passes quickly. Bruce Arians enjoyed going deep -- taking our shots, he called it -- with Ben Roethlisberger to Wallace.
"That's going to be key, get the ball out fast, get it in our hands a little earlier so we can make something happen," Brown said.
Added Sanders: "We have a lot of speed at receiver, we have a lot of quick guys. If you're a DB, you'd rather play against a guy who is a little slower and a little bigger than the quick, shifty guys, and that is what we have in this receiver corps.
"As far as I know," he said, "Mike wants to be here. I don't think he's frustrated. I think that both parties definitely want him to be here. I think soon that maybe something can get done."
• After practice, there was a long-distance passing duel between quarterback Troy Smith and linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Timmons throws a nice long spiral and uncorked one that went about 80 yards, just a yard short of Smith's best. Smith will move on to compete next week against Byron Leftwich.
• First, Roethlisberger earned his degree from Miami University this spring and now that school will induct him into its Hall of Fame along with his former coach, the late Terry Hoeppner.
First Published June 1, 2012 4:00 AM