PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 24: Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers makes a catch against Josh Gordy #38 of the St. Louis Rams during the game on December 24, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers won 27-0. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
We wrote Tuesday Mike Wallace was a step away from signing his restricted free agent contract and reporting to training camp.
That still appears to be the case, as Alan Robinson, amongst others, reported Wednesday.
When that will be is still a matter of some conjecture. Robinson quoted WR Emmanuel Sanders saying "We don't know the exact date, but we're looking forward to getting him back in and looking forward to him making those big-time plays he's capable of making,"
Wallace's decision to not sign his one-year tender offer as a restricted free agent brings with it consequences, but it's not done purely out of greed.
But will it be worth it?
That's a completely subjective question, likely to be answered logically and differently by many people. On one hand, it's silly to suggest spending time with one's teammates while being driven to improve and working in a nearly identical environment to the ones a player will work in 16 weeks this season won't be at all beneficial.
Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper tore up his knee in 2005, and instead of undergoing rehabilitation at the Vikings' facility with their trainers, he chose to rehab on his own in a strip mall health club. He showed his progress to then Vikings coach Brad Childress by running agility drills in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart.
Culpepper was traded to Miami not long after that.
Fun side note, this could be the funniest Hindsight-is-20/20 lead in the history of sports writing:
I'll take "Poorest Decisions Ever" for $400, Alex.
Anyway, while Wallace's situation and that of Culpepper back in 2005 are apples-to-oranges, the broader perspective is about the value of being around the team for the sake of trust, more than anything else.
It may not be fair, but when the rubber meets the road, it's the Steelers' money, not Wallace's, being spent. Regardless of Wallace's reason, an NFL team needs only a reason to not pay a player $25 million guaranteed, and from the Steelers' perspective, they can, and probably will, hold a grudge.
On the other hand, it may be the Steelers' money, but it's Wallace's posterior. While there are several valid and recent examples of receivers not having the same level of success with their new team as they did with their old team, Wallace as a person is bigger than a team, even if Wallace as a player is not.
At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I'm going to assume Wallace does not possess another skill that is valued at tens of millions of dollars. Having an ability to make that kind of money is about as rare as finding a diamond with a four-leaf clover growing out of it. The ultimate goal for him is to profit the most he can, because odds are excellent he will have a shorter life, will be pain as he ages and won't have much of a job in his post-playing career.
With those cards on the table, it seems more like both sides are right in what they're doing. Maybe no one's wrong in this, and maybe that's why the players who have spoken out on this topic (notably, Sanders, CB Ike Taylor and QB Ben Roethlisberger) do not speak of spite or greed. Maybe that's why the Steelers elected to keep his tender offer at $2.7 million as opposed to exercising their right to reduce it to 110 percent of his previous salary.
Everyone wants one thing; Wallace to return to the Steelers.
Both sides what what's in their best interest, and Wallace's decision to stay away from the team may affect more than just him. This is equally true for the Steelers' decision to push back on Wallace by not negotiating until he reported to camp.
Hopefully, Wallace simply reports to the team, works hard to get in tune with the offense and has a great year. Maybe he leaves after this season, maybe the team gives him a deal, maybe he gets the franchise tag. All anyone involved can do now is work hard and hope the best outcome comes out.