Mike Wallace took another stand when he did not report to training camp on time, and now apparently the Steelers will take one of their own as the contract impasse between the two sides takes a new turn.
The Steelers will suspend negotiations on a multiple-year contract until Wallace signs his one-year tender and reports to the team, a club source said. As a restricted free agent, Wallace was offered a one-year contract worth $2.472 million last March but he remains the only RFA in the NFL who has not signed.
Wallace, who made the Pro Bowl in his third season last year, cannot practice until he is under contract, either by signing the one-year tender or by signing another contract offered by the team that has now been basically rescinded.
Coach Mike Tomlin said after conducting a conditioning test for his players that "this thing" is bigger than Mike Wallace.
"Obviously Mike Wallace was not here today. I don't know when he's going to be here. Obviously we have a desire for him to be here. We want him to be a part of this thing both short term and long term. We've been in negotiations with him. He's not here today. It's unfortunate for him.
"One thing that experience has taught me is that this is bigger than all of us. It's bigger than Mike, it's bigger than me, so I mean that when I say it's unfortunate for him that he's not here."
The stance of ending negotiations for a holdout has been taken by the team before, most recently when Hines Ward held out for the first two weeks of the 2005 training camp. However, Ward had one year left on his contract at the time and was pressing for a new one. After ending his holdout, negotiations resumed and he received a four-year extension three weeks later.
"I'm less concerned about negotiations from a coach's standpoint," Tomlin said. "I want the player here. We've extended a tender to him; of course, he hasn't signed it. But I'm focused on the guys here working so I won't focus on him until he gets here."
Steelers president Art Rooney II declined comment on the situation Wednesday during a press conference to formally announce the signing of first-round draft choice David DeCastro. In June, Rooney told the Post-Gazette, regarding Wallace's absence from all spring activities, "He should be here."
Said Tomlin: "This group that is the Pittsburgh Steelers will continue to push on. We'll focus our energies on readying the people who are here and when he shows up, he shows up."
With a new offense installed by coordinator Todd Haley, the Steelers believe training camp becomes more important, including Max Starks, who missed all of camp and the first four games in 2011 until he was re-signed and started the rest of the way at left tackle.
"I think in general, all of us, every player should want to be in training camp," Starks said. "I mean, this is a new offense and there are a lot of little nuances, even though some things will be consistent as far as our coaching staff.
"But as far as philosophy and what coach Haley wants to run, I think it's important to get in here at this pace when it's a little bit slower and get adjusted to it, get adjusted to the terminology. That's usually the biggest thing that usually hurts people is coming in to a new type of system with the terminology and everything and thinking that everything's consistent and it's not. I mean, I'm just happy to be here so I can start digesting all of it."
While Wallace is out, Emmanuel Sanders will take his spot in the starting lineup.
"I definitely will be in his spot at the 'X' position," Sanders said. "But I got a good feeling that sometime, hopefully, about four to five, or three days, Mike will be showing up. It will definitely be different, it's going to be OTAs all over again."
Tomlin would not say if Sanders could take the job from Wallace if his holdout stretches deep into camp or beyond.
"I'm not going to get into the hypotheticals. What I'm going to do is work with Emmanuel Sanders because he's here, and be excited about doing it."
Wallace did pick up Haley's new playbook in the spring, and Sanders believes that he can learn plenty from it.
"Mike is a smart guy, he picks up on things fairly well. I don't have a problem with it, I doubt he'll have a problem with it. The coaches are going to do everything they can do to make sure he understands the playbook.
"It's definitely just X and Os, you don't get that experience you get being out here or in OTAs. But they'll give him his fair share of reps so he'll catch up with us."
The Steelers promoted scout Dan Rooney Jr. to player personnel coordinator and list him in the media guide as No. 2 behind general manager Kevin Colbert.
They also expanded the duties for Omar Khan, who is now the director of football and business administration, with the football title added.
First Published July 25, 2012 7:45 PM