No reason to worry about Wallace missing workouts
Let's begin today with three educated guesses:
One, you loved Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace last season when he pulled in a pass from Ben Roethlisberger and went 95 yards for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. Speed thrills, doesn't it?
Two, you didn't like Wallace in February when he told SiriusXM radio, "I definitely need to get my money." The nerve, right? The greed!
And three, you really didn't like Wallace Tuesday when he skipped the first of the Steelers' 10 voluntary organized team activities (OTAs). How can he be so selfish? Doesn't he want to learn the new offense? Doesn't he care about the team?
Here's some unsolicited advice relating to guesses two and three:
Get over it.
Wallace isn't a bad guy. He doesn't deserve your scorn or your anger. He isn't ruining his career. He isn't sabotaging the season before it begins.
Wallace's temporary estrangement with the Steelers is no big deal.
"It'll be over," coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday.
Parts of it are unseemly. It's always unpleasant when an athlete talks publicly about money. Most of the world works hard every day for relative peanuts. Wallace, apparently, isn't happy with the one-year tender of $2,742,000 and wants a long-term deal.
There was an unconfirmed report in March that Wallace wanted Larry Fitzgerald money, a contract in the very exclusive $100 million neighborhood. Wallace's only comments on that matter came via Twitter: Don't believe everything you read or hear. But he did tell SiriusXM: "I feel like I've done my part for my team. At my position, the last couple of years, I've been at the top of every list. I definitely think I need my money."
Some have speculated Wallace's asking price was the reason he didn't attract much interest after last season as a restricted free agent. It's much more likely teams didn't want to pay him big money and give the Steelers a No. 1 draft choice, per NFL rules for restricted free agents.
Wallace is like a lot of players. He wants to be paid as an unrestricted free agent before he is one. If he signs his tender and plays well this season, he'll get the big money next offseason. That's almost a guarantee.
That's the way the system works.
Eventually -- maybe not during the next three weeks of OTAs or during the mandatory minicamp June 12-14, but certainly before training camp in July -- Wallace will sign his tender or, better yet, reach a number with the Steelers that works for both parties in a long-term contract. Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert have made it clear they want Wallace to remain with the team for years. They usually get what they want. In Wallace's case, they want that speed, that blessed, wonderful speed.
Wallace might not be happy now and can make his protest by staying away from the OTAs and minicamp, but he has no choice but to come back. Surely, he has studied Steelers history. They don't blink in contract negotiations. Ever. They didn't blink with Hall of Famer Franco Harris before releasing him in 1984. They didn't blink with future Hall of Famer Hines Ward in 2005; he had to end his holdout and report to training camp before they gave him a long-term extension. They really didn't blink with All-Pro linebacker Mike Merriweather in 1988; they let him sit out all season before trading him to the Minnesota Vikings for a No. 1 draft choice.
Wallace will be at training camp.
Don't believe those who say Wallace will be unhappy, moody, even disruptive if he has to play the season under the tender. He's not that much of a fool. He will be playing for big money in his next contract. He has to play well to get it. Teammate LaMarr Woodley should be his inspiration. He was in the same situation as Wallace in 2010, had a great season and signed a six-year, $61.5 million deal before last season.
That's the way the system works.
Wallace's teammates understand the process. That's why there appeared to be no outrage coming from the locker room over his absence Tuesday. They know a player's career is short and he must grab for all he can. They also know they could be in Wallace's situation at some point.
Sure, it would be nice if Wallace were with the others this week, learning new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's offense. "It's understanding what Todd is thinking," wide receiver Antonio Brown said of the importance of OTAs. "The areas where he's expecting the wideouts to be and the timing that we need to get there. It's getting on the same page over and over."
But it's hardly the end of the world that Wallace isn't in. "Short-term misery," Tomlin called it. Haley's offense isn't rocket science, no matter how many times Roethlisberger has said it is. Wallace will learn it. He has his playbook and probably is studying it at this very moment.
"Hopefully, he's studying," Brown said.
The bottom line?
"I just hope it works out for the best because, in 2012, we're going to need him to win," Brown said.
The Steelers will have Wallace.
It won't take you long to fall in love again with that speed.
First Published May 23, 2012 12:00 am