PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 21: Emmanuel Sanders #88 of the Pittsburgh Steelers catches a pass before rolling into the endzone for a touchdown in front of Jeremy Ware #23 of the Oakland Raiders during the game against on November 21 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Steelers WR Mike Wallace has little leverage left in his contract negotiation. Not only is teammate, WR Antonio Brown, rising fast among other NFL wide receivers, but he's taking some of the spotlight from Wallace.
Two dogs, one bone. Or, two great receivers, one big Steelers pay day.
Does Wallace's alleged threats to hold out matter?
No. The Steelers have the ability to reduce his $2.7 million tender offer to 110 percent of his 2011 salary (much less than $2.7 million) if Wallace does not sign the deal by June 15, one day after mini-camp ends.
Maybe this is Clintonion, but it depends on what a "hold out" is. Will Wallace miss OTAs? That's certainly possible, and it's not something that would draw a fine. In the end, it doesn't matter as much if he's not there for mini camp as if he missed training camp, and Wallace's situation doesn't improve at all by missing any of it.
Keep in mind, too, the reduction piece of the tender offer is an option the Steelers have the right to exercise; it does not mean they will. Such a move would no doubt back Wallace into a corner that could lead to an inevitable training camp holdout, which would be detrimental to both Wallace and the Steelers.
Eagles WR Desean Jackson, a receiver probably a step below Wallace (and signed a deal this off-season worth $15 million guaranteed), admitted his contract battle distracted him, and advised Eagles RB LeSean McCoy against doing the same thing he did.
"I think it would be in his best interest to come" to offseason practices and camp, Jackson said. "Looking back now it really hurt me more than I thought it helped me. Hopefully he saw everything I went through, and hopefully [agent] Drew [Rosenhaus] won't have him go through the same thing."
Regardless of what Wallace's agent, Bus Cook, may be telling Adam Schefter, which naturally makes such high quality reporters like Evan Silva report it as if a precursor to the future, a hold out will not help Wallace in any way. His best bet is to hold off on signing it until Cook has had one last pre-mini camp crack at a long-term deal. Sign it, requesting the Steelers come back to the table in training camp (where OLB LaMarr Woodley, SS Troy Polamalu and ILB Lawrence Timmons all signed extensions last season, Woodley having signed his franchise tag without holding out) and take a look at the matter again.
Can Antonio Brown be even better in 2012?
Yes. Lots of simple questions surrounding this group. For as talented as Brown is, the aspect making him such an outstanding receiver is his work ethic. Former 6th round draft picks don't run routes as well as he did in his second year. They don't command as much attention as he did over the second half of the season. His desire to be great is without question his best attribute, and he's setting the bar very high for any Steelers receiver - including Wallace - in the future.
His success may simply force Wallace to another team, and while that does only intensify his own impending contract negotiation (he's set to be a restricted free agent in 2013), it doesn't seem like Brown would have it any other way. Taken off special teams duties for this upcoming season, Brown figures to be a big part of the offense, and rightfully he should. The rapport he developed with QB Ben Roethlisberger after the first quarter of the season was evident to all, and odds of him leading the team in receptions this season are very high.
Is Emmanuel Sanders the Forgotten One among Steelers receivers?
It wasn't long ago Sanders, and not Brown, was the rising receiver among the Steelers. Injuries have really set him back after he led the team in targets in the AFC Championship Game his rookie year. A foot injury in the Super Bowl, and what appeared to be a re-aggravation of that injury in training camp, forced Sanders to lose some ground.
Injuries happen to everyone, and the ones affecting Sanders are ill-timed. He's still very talented and, with some luck, could really surprise some people this year. He's also a year away from restricted free agency, so this is an important off-season and training camp for him. Injuries are unpredictable and they take their toll on a player mentally. The real question we should be asking is how good can he be if the Injury Bug passes over him for just one year?
What are rookie WR Toney Clemons' chances of making the roster?
Normally I take a quick glance into the seventh-round picks and see what unique skill they may bring to the table, but more, what weaknesses they show that may have caused them to fall so far. In Clemons' case, it really seems to be his rocky collegiate career that affected him, even more than just needing some work on his hands. Playing for two coaches at Michigan, transferring to Colorado and working for numerous coaches there, it's tough to ask any player to grow and improve under such conditions.
Dropping passes, though, isn't nearly as much coaching as it is focus, concentration and coordination. Tough to be an NFL receiver if you can't catch the ball.
In Clemons' case, and no doubt, his agent is saying the same thing, he's on a great team to move past all of that. While wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery has to be moving closer each passing year to a promotion, the coaching staff is otherwise stable for the foreseeable future, and he has some great younger receivers around him.
Will it be enough to make the 53-man roster? I'd say right now, it won't be. With Sanders' injury concerns, I think they'll want to bring in a low-priced veteran for the sake of stability to that group. Clemons could be a riser and need a year of seasoning, and the Steelers won't want a guy like that to take a spot now. He'll get a camp to prove that prediction false. It sure would help the Steelers in the future for him to earn playing time now, though.