Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Free Agents Analysis: WR Mike Wallace

It is time to have a player by player look at the Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Free Agents and do a complete breakdown of their 2011 season and look ahead to their pending 2012 free agency situation. I will start with the restricted free agents and then move on to the unrestricted and exclusive free agents. To kick this series off I will start with wide receiver Mike Wallace.

Player: Mike Wallace

Position: Wide Receiver

Experience: 3 Years

Free Agent Status: Restricted

2011 Salary Cap Hit: $710,168.00

2011 Season Breakdown: Wallace had a torrid start to the 2011 season up until the bye week as he totaled 53 catches for 922 yards and 6 touchdowns. That equated to an obscene 17.4 yards per reception. He was targeted 74 times through those first 10 games and had a 72% catch percentage. This computes to a stellar 12.5 yards per target. He was on pace for 1474 yards and 10 touchdowns and had appeared to have shaken the “one trick pony” tag that head coach Mike Tomlin had given him through his first two seasons as he was catching passes in every area of the field, against all types of coverages and bracketing. He truly was showing characteristics of a true all around receiver.

Following the bye week Wallace saw his production drop drastically. Over the last 6 regular season game he had just 19 receptions for 271 yards and 2 touchdowns. His yards per reception dropped to 14.3 and while still not bad, his catch ratio fell to 49% as he was targeted 39 times over the last 6 games. This dropped his yards per target to a very average 6.95. His route running seemed to get a little sloppier than it had been through the first 10 games and he never seemed to be the same receiver after being separated from the ball by Pacman Jones early in the week 13 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Wallace also reverted back to catching quite a few balls with his body more, a big knock on him coming out of college. The biggest evidence of this was in the week 15 game against the St. Louis Rams and in the AFC Wild Card game against the Denver Broncos. Against the Rams it almost cost him a long catch from Charlie Batch and it did cost him dearly on the overturned play against the Broncos.

The only other real knock on Wallace is his run blocking. While we did see some improvement in a few games this past season, it was not enough and very inconsistent. It is not like he is counted on to block on every single run play, but he needs to be more accountable on runs to his side on plays that call for it. He still has tremendous speed though and that will always be his greatest asset and he is great after the catch.

It really is hard to put a finger on why exactly Wallace tailed off in the last third of the season. Part of it can be attributed to the accuracy problems of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and perhaps he was a little dinged up as well. He also became second fiddle to Antonio Brown as the year went on. On the surface it seems like he has reverted back to just a homerun threat, but I know he is indeed much more than that as I have seen it. An offseason of hard work dedicated to more crisper route running and focusing on catching more with his hands can have him easily a candidate to come back with a 1,400 yard season in 2012. Despite his drop off in production, Wallace remains one of the most dangerous receivers in the league and will be going to the Pro Bowl for his efforts in 2011.

Free Agency Outlook: Wallace is a restricted free agent and I expect the Steelers will tender him at a first round level. While the one year restricted tender amounts are not yet known, several project it to be around $2.8 million, but it could be higher. The Steelers will likely then work on getting him signed to a 4 or 5 year deal at that point before free agency begins. Should Wallace not be re-signed by the start of free agency, and another team makes a run at him, the Steelers will have a chance to match the offer sheet or receive a first round pick in return from the team that signs him away. I gauge his market value at around 4 years for $36 million or 5 years $45 million. It is not totally out of the question that another team could make a run at him despite the 1st round pick involved in getting him, but in the end I think he is inked to a new deal with the Steelers by the time the draft rolls around. He has earned it and is worth it.

Other 2012 Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Keenan Lewis – Restricted Free Agent
Doug Legursky – Restricted Free Agent
Ramon Foster – Restricted Free Agent
David Johnson – Restricted Free Agent
Ryan Mundy – Restricted Free Agent
Jamon Meredith – Restricted Free Agent
Jerricho Cotchery – Unestricted Free Agent
Max Starks – Unestricted Free Agent
Mewelde Moore – Unestricted Free Agent
Byron Leftwich – Unestricted Free Agent
Charlie Batch – Unestricted Free Agent
Dennis Dixon – Unestricted Free Agent

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  • Intropy

    I think Roethlisberger’s injury had a big effect on Wallace. I don’t know why it would hurt his game more than other receivers’ but I think that’s more likely than a coincidence in the timing of the fall off.

  • tequila0341

    I don’t think he became just a deep threat. I saw numerous throws on bubble screens to him that ended up going for 15-17 yards in the last quarter of the season – they just never really seemed to go to him too often over the middle of the field.

    I think that Mike needs to try and bulk up a bit more to better absorb the hits over a 16-game season, if it doesn’t slow him down. But let’s not forget that he still had an incredible year, one of the best ever by a Steelers WR, and is only getting better.

  • I like Wallace, but I don’t think he is worth the $9 million per year that it may take to get him signed long term. When I see a healthy player have a drop in production, such as Wallace had, I have to question the amount of preparation that player is putting in. Great players prepare for their upcoming match ups, so they can find ways to beat the player they are going against.

    I don’t know. Maybe Wallace got cocky, because of the success he had early in the season, or simply relies on his speed, and feels that is enough.

  • kevin

    People who don’t think Wallace is an elite receiver should check out the advanced stats from football outsiders. It is fairly clear that he is a top-5 player at his position.

  • some things you can’t base on stats alone. How many drops did he have? How many times has he made big catches to win games?

    Elite players don’t disappear for an entire half of a season. Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are elite receivers. Wallace is a good receiver.

  • Christopher Merrifield

    I like Wallace, but if someone tries to sign him and we get a first round pick for him, I am on the fence. He is a great receiver and I think Brown benefited from the attention defenses gave to Wallace, but if a team offers him more than 10 million a year, I dont think the Steelers can afford to match it.

  • Smittyflash24

    we need this guy….but! don’t overpay to keep him! the negative on Wallace…to cocky..feels he’s already there! one trick pony…thisone I blame on Ben….catches to many balls on his body….Ben has yet to prove he can hit this man in stride…if someone offers him the bank,then take the 1st rd and call it a day….the set back is…his speed freed up mr.brown…the focus this off season is to re-load…out with the old!!! in with the new and improve(…a.k.a. watch what the bengals are doing…it works!)

  • Jefferson St. Joe

    Like everyone else, I like Wallace and want to keep him, but they can’t overpay here. Without seeing practice or being in the meeting rooms, I can’t put my finger on exactly how good he is going to be. He just doesn’t seem to have the instincts guys like Brown and Sanders have.

    He needs to improve a lot to merit $8-9 mil in my opinion. If they’re not sure yet, hold him on the tender and give him another year before writing the big checks. I trust the Steelers to get this one right.

  • Emac2

    I’ll be surprised if team with a low first round pick doesn’t sign him to a deal the steelers can’t/won’t match. Our nice little group of WR’s don’t look that good without him either.

  • kevin

    Don’t you understand that stats take those things into account. He makes those mistakes, but he is so exceptional at other times that he still posts excellent number. Read up on the advanced statistics a bit. Also, you may want to check out a game-by-game analysis of Calvin this year and Fitzgerald in past years if you think they don’t disappear for stretches.

  • kevin

    Also, the argument that some things you can’t base on “insert what I am arguing against” is code for “I don’t have a legitimate counterargument”

  • Jollyrob68

    Vet teams with late round picks like New England(2 1ST ROUNDERS),San Fran,NYG and Green Bay may want him and I’m fine with that. I’d rather have a team from picks 9-20 take him but my fear is that CINCY signs him(Dalton,Green,Wallace would be sick) because they have two 1st rounders and they’d give up the # 21st pick.