The Steelers have taken considerable pains to move past the Young Money mini-epoch in Pittsburgh.
They gave Antonio Brown a $42 million contract after just his second year, a rare move for the franchise. They matched New England's one year contract offer for Emmanuel Sanders, giving him a significant raise on his one-year restricted free agency tender. They let Sanders walk in free agency, counting on second-year WR Markus Wheaton to fill his void. They drafted their second receiver in two years in the first four rounds of the draft, taking on talented but raw Martavis Bryant.
The offseason after the Steelers set a franchise mark in scoring and passing yards, and one in which Brown had the second-most catches of any receiver in history and Bryant won the team's Rookie of the Year award, the receiver who started the trend, Mike Wallace, is being shopped around by the Dolphins, the team he left to via free agency in 2013, and reportedly is interested in returning to Pittsburgh.
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora writes:
...I continue to hear he's interested in a return to Pittsburgh, though it remains to be seen how the Steelers feel about that.
It's absurd to even consider it.
This isn't meant in vengeance or spite, we remember clearly laying out Wallace's risks as a player when he was set to hit free agency two years ago.
It's not as if the phrase "Caveat Emptor" wasn't scrawled all over the Dolphins' decision to offer him that much money. They weren't alone. Minnesota reportedly offered him even more than the Dolphins did. That's probably 400 percent more than Wallace will get now on the open market, and it won't be from the Steelers.
Savvy owners and general managers know how to exploit situations like Wallace's - sign a huge deal, fall well short of those expectations while failing to continue to improve then make a public decision that results in, at worst, fair criticism of your character (this isn't referring to his decision to leave Pittsburgh, which was perfectly acceptable, it was his decision to essentially quit on his team in its Week 17 game against the Jets at the end of the 2014 season).
La'el Collins may be best option at 22
He may be too slow to cover receivers or rush the passer, but OT prospect La'el Collins could play guard, and that makes him a valuable candidate for the Steelers with the 22nd pick.
This move, where he has teammate Brandon Gibson speak to the media on his behalf after he didn't play in the second half against the Jets, is a nice touch, too. Gibson was also released from the Dolphins.
Wallace will be released from the Dolphins soon before free agency begins. That's a certainty at this point. His agent dropping hints to La Canfora about his client's desire to return to Pittsburgh isn't a surprise. Wallace likely wants to return to Pittsburgh as much as he wants to start a career with any one of 30 other teams outside Steel City and South Beach.
That ship has sailed, and not for what he did (or didn't do) in Pittsburgh. Not for his relative lack of production in Miami. If not for his antics during the team's Week 17 game last year, perhaps the Steelers would be amenable for a reunion at a drastically reduced price.
It clearly won't happen. But watch a team like the Patriots swoop in on a bargain, pay him a low amount to run one route and watch him put up the same kinds of numbers he did before 2012.
The rich get richer in the NFL by targeting players who have given reasons for teams to not guarantee them money. The Steelers are climbing toward the top of the league in terms of offensive talent, and they simply have neither the need for the one-trick pony (Bryant's rookie numbers are, proportionally speaking, very similar to Wallace's, and he's only only considerably taller than Wallace, he's under a four-year rookie contract, not three, like Wallace was), nor the space to sign him to what he'll likely get on the open market, a two-year deal for maybe $4-5 million per year, very little of that guaranteed.
If anything, the Steelers should do this, just for old time's sake: (a touch of genius from our friends at Steelers N'at)
Steelers should offer Mike Wallace a vet minimum contract, just to troll him.— The Steelers n'at (@thesteelersnat) February 27, 2015