Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport
Evidently, optimism over availability has been married to the weather in Pittsburgh, for both seem to be caught in a downward spiral; at least for four players.
Mike Wallace has been officially ruled out for Sunday's final regular season game against the Cleveland Browns. An unfortunate year's end for a players that has not missed a game in his four year career, until Sunday. Wallace has been reportedly dealing with hamstring and hip problems over the past two weeks. The pain did not force him to leave early against the Cowboys, but he was limited in practice the following week. He did not miss the following game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he did not start, either. If the coach's injury report is accurate, then Wallace's injuries have only worsened over that time, and he is no longer able to take the field.
Little was made of his non-start against the Bengals, mainly because starts are counted for the players involved in the first play for both the offensive and defensive units. Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery were the Steelers starting receivers in week 16. After his purposeful absence during training camp and the preseason, Wallace has found himself under constant scrutiny for dropped passes, fumbled footballs, and questionable effort and focus. His absence in week 17 leaves the door open for more speculation of the role money may have played in the decision.
His contract expires when the NFL season does, and has left little evidence that he plans to be back. He wouldn't be against it, but it would have to be for the right dollar amount. That type of money is something the Steelers do not have, nor would be willing, to give. The possibility of the Steelers offering Wallace a contract at this point are not completely ruled, just very slim with other free agents to sign, and other roster holes to fill.
Gerry Dulac spoke to Wallace about the situation revolving his "out" status, and Wallace may have said all there is to say about his thoughts on returning to Pittsburgh.
"I didn't want to go out like that. I really wanted to go out on a high note. It's unfortunate."
There is no more fitting word to describe the career of Mike Wallace in Pittsburgh - unfortunate.
In other injury news, the Steelers had some more depressing tidbits to distribute today. Curtis Brown, who had his best game of the season against the Bengals in week 16, has been slowed by a knee injury that will now keep him out against the Browns on Sunday. Josh Victorian, Robert Golden, and recently signed Justin King will have to fill in at the interior slot positions.
Fortunately, they will only be called upon in nickel and dime situations, as Cortez Allen and Keenan Lewis are both slated to start on Sunday. Allen dealt with a hip flexor for the past few weeks, but has not been listed on the injury report all week, after having his best game as a pro picking off two passes, and forcing a fumble. Lewis has been dealing with knee and hip issues which forced him to miss the first two practices this week. He returned to practice today, and is probable for Sunday.
Mike Adams who has been fighting to return from leg issues for the past few weeks by practicing in limited terms, was completely shut down for the past two days and is now out against the Browns. Rookie Kelvin Beachum will make another unexpected start at right tackle in place of the Steelers rookie of the year, alongside David DeCastro, the Steelers top draft choice this year.
Recently promoted linebacker Marshall McFadden missed practice yesterday with an abdominal injury. Evidently, he showed no improvement today. McFadden has also been ruled out for Sunday's game. With both Brown and McFadden out, expect Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith to see the field on special teams. If he is able to secure a hat for Sunday, he may even find time in the secondary relieving Troy Polamalu or Ryan Clark, depending on the score.
The coaching staff will definitely be taking advantage of this final game to better scout the younger prospects on their roster, as immediately following the game, the Steelers will begin readying themselves for 2013.
[UPDATE: The Steelers made a few more moves on Friday, according to Steelers Depot. Wallace, C. Brown, and Adams were all placed on injured reserve. In answer, the Steelers promoted Alameda Ta'amu and David Gilreath from the practice squad. As it stands now, the Steelers only have 52 men on the roster, meaning there will only be six inactives this week instead of the normal seven. There could be some surprises by gametime as to who those deactivated will be.]