Let Wallace Walk? Not Such A Crazy Idea

By Jeremy Hritz

In 2005, the Pittsburgh Steelers won a Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks with receivers Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El, and Cedrick Wilson. Again in 2008, the Steelers captured their sixth Lombardi against another NFC West opponent in the Arizona Cardinals with Ward, Santonio Holmes, and Nate Washington. Wilson, Randle El, and Washington were solid, Holmes was clutch, and Ward is a future Hall of Famer. Outside of Washington, none of these guys were burners who could successfully get vertical, but they were all reliable and able to be depended on for earning crucial first downs.

Mike Wallace has been an incredible talent for the Steelers over the last three seasons, amassing over 3,200 yards and 24 total receiving touchdowns. He began 2011 season all fireworks and hand grenades, but his production mysteriously collapsed during the second act.

With the needs that the Steelers have on the offensive line and at nose tackle, the emergence of Antonio Brown and the potential of Emmanuel Sanders, and the commitment to generating a more effective ground game next year, the Steelers should seriously consider letting Wallace sign with another team.

In no way should Wallace’s accomplishments be overlooked or understated, but what cannot be disregarded is that the Steelers have won Super Bowls with lesser receiving corps than what they would begin the season with next year if they resigned Wallace. The bite of a new contract for Wallace will command some serious math, and that could exacerbate the salary cap obstacle that the Steelers are getting ready to climb over. Letting Wallace walk would also allow for the Steelers to resign Jerricho Cotchery who played well at the end of the season. The Steelers could also look to bring in a cheaper, big-bodied, free-agent wide receiver that could help the team to convert in the red zone, such as Dwayne Bowe or Plaxico Burress, who most likely will not return to the Jets. Or if not in free agency, considering the success that the Steelers have had in drafting wide receivers in the later rounds, they could bring in a young wide-out in the draft.

The Steelers would also acquire another first round pick which would allow them to rejuvenate the aging defense and bring in a game-ready offensive lineman. Imagine starting training camp with Dontari Poe and Cordy Glenn. These players and these positions are going to benefit the team more than keeping Wallace, who does stretch the field for a big play, but he cannot tie up multiple blockers, nor keep Ben Roethlisberger from getting crushed.

The last thing to consider here is that the Steelers are committed to having an effective and smarter running game in 2012. In an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week by Ed Bouchette, he cites a recent interview with the legendary Steeler Joe Greene in which Greene voices his agreement with the team’s move to let Arians walk. In the interview, Greene called the Steelers’ offense under Arians “imbalanced” and lacking of an intelligent offensive strategy. He also went on to say that the play calling and clock usage of the offense resulted in the second loss to Baltimore. Greene, who is a Special Assistant for the Steelers, is surely privy to discussions that have occurred between Mike Tomlin and the Rooneys, and his comments are more than likely a reflection of the sentiment of the organization. With that said, the obsession with the pass that has been a staple of the Steelers during Arians’ tenure, is most likely to shift, not dramatically, but in a noticeable way, making Wallace all the more expendable.

Again, Wallace is a great talent, and more than likely he will return next year. But the long-term benefits that could result from Wallace signing with another team are unable to be ignored. Brown is primed to be a superstar, and Sanders has yet to have a healthy full season. Throw in Heath Miller, Cotchery, and maybe even the old man Ward, and the Steelers passing game could be just as effective in 2012. Yet what is even more important is that the Steelers could start collecting the pieces necessary to get back to playing a football game next February, and maybe even in a few more Februarys after that.

  • SteelersDepot

    I see where Jeremy is coming from and what he is trying to say, but I have to say that all of this is unlikely to happen. AR2 has already said that Wallace is priority and the contract he gets should be easy to swallow in the first two seasons. I will have to give Jeremy a big raspberry here. lol

  • stelltwin

    You don’t let that kind of unselfish talent walk, the difference between him and Holmes is that he is not an idiot-attention-grabbing douche on and off the field

  • Intropy

    You say to imagine starting training camp with Dontari Poe and Cordy Glenn. But imagine staring training camp with Mike Wallace and Cordy Glenn. I’ll take the proven superstar wide receiver over the rookie nose tackle prospect. They can’t overpay Wallace. They simply can’t afford it and it’s almost never good sense to pay more than what a guy is worth when you could spend that money elsewhere. But keeping Wallace is important. If all you’re saying is that the Steelers should carefully weigh the demanded salary against the other players that salary could buy and against the additional draft selection, then I’m right there with you. If you mean to suggest that a first round pick is more valuable than Mike Wallace then I disagree. Well, unless Indy is the one making the bid on Wallace, then I probably let him go and trade the Luck selection for a mint.

  • Kysteeler

    I actually posting something like this of a forum and was bashed for it. If the Steelers free up cap but a team offers more, why not take the 1st and cap space? Its not just trading a 1st rounder for Wallace, its also what you can sign with the money you were going to spend on Wallace. If I were the Pats and just lost the Super Bowl putting up 14 pts, and have two picks in the 1st, why not the 31st on Wallace? Welker, Wallace, and the TEs that would be almost impossible to cover..

  • Eric87


  • It really depends on the chemistry between Ben and Wallace. Ben has overthrown Wallace badly on some TD opportunities(remember the GB SB which cost the team points). And when Ben was accurate, Wallace has been found lacking in making the tough catch in traffic. Wallace is not a great red zone receiver. You know who Wallace is perfect for – his hometown Saints. Brees, Wallace, and that fake turf are built for each other. Unfortunately Saints are not desperate for WRs, otherwise we could have gotten something great in a trade.

    My advice: Tender him at a first round rate. If a team with a probable low first round pick makes an offer, then matfch the offer. If a team with a probable high first round pick makes an offer, then accept it.

  • pitty smitty

    Dumbing idea I have heard in a long. Wallaces’ numbers dropped because he was used wrong at the end of the season. The beginning of the season they took what was given at the end of the season he was asked to run primarily go routes. Who wrote this trash?? Good thing the Steelers mngmt is not this stupid.

  • Grw1960

    I see where you are coming from, but I would rather see the Steelers keep Wallace if possible.
    Right now the Steelers have a great mix of WRs. If they let Wallace walk and Brown gets injured?
    Then you would not have any WRs left who could stretch the field and open up the short routes.

  • Jb

    Most of the time in life there is not a perfect solution… I say this because it does not seem as if the three young receivers are currently mentally tough enough. Holmes was/is a goof (being polite) – but the Steelers cost themselves a better shot at winning the SB last year, because he was not on the team. I’m telling fellow Steelers fans that it really hurt Ben’s confidence in last year’s SB that Holmes was not part of the receiving core… especially, obviously, during the last Pittsburgh drive.

    This is old news, but when Holmes was traded last season my first thought was – the Steelers receiving core is too inexperienced for the “big” games. Second – hey, Steelers higher ups! your being hypocrites. If Ben had been the dope smoker you probably wouldn’t have traded him. The team should have publicly reprimanded Holmes, let him play out that season – in which Holmes would have played well because he knew that he most likely would not be welcomed back to Pittsburgh… making him a free agent. Simply, the team blew-it! This time I think the team will attempt to keep Wallace and hope he will take the next step towards being great.

  • Jwsteelers03

    Poe and Glenn sound real nice as two 1st rounders then you could go MLB or best available in Rd 2 and get a receiver in Rd 3 or 4. I don’t hate the idea

  • Lons

    I like Wallace and his skills are incredible, but he’ll never be happy playing the role of decoy. Haley may have different ideas for how to use him, but Wallace was simply drawing coverage (especially in the second half of the season when defenses were forced to show him respect) and his numbers and attitude reflected that.

    This is the best receiving group I have ever seen in Pittsburgh, or at least the fastest, but it’s skewed by having such a great quarterback. If the Steelers sign Cotchery (I think he’s a real value) and keep Ward and/or draft/sign a receiver, I couldn’t see the passing game falling off at all. Big plays are devastating for a defense and ideal for an offense, but it often comes at the expense of balance.

    This is a great team and they may be headed in a direction where the inevitable rebuilding is bypassed by solid young talent. With two number one picks this year to address each line, it could pay off for the team far more than Wallace chewing up the cap with a long-term deal. The risk is that we find out that Wallace really is that good and is sorely missed, and in a year when Ben lost Arians and picked up a coach who is certain to break his shoes every chance he can get suddenly the quarterback is unhappy.

  • Joe D

    The NFL has turned into a passing league whether the Rooneys or Joe Greene likes or not.
    Steelers have CAP issues with all the senior citizens on defense.
    Time for some serious cuts.
    Especially take a long look at those over 32. I’d cut everyone over 32.
    Ya just can’t keep restructuring as Steelers are just pushing it off to more problems in 2013 and 2014!!! Take the hit in 2012 as a rebuilding year. Keep the youth.
    Whether Steelers can keep both Wallace and Brown is yet to be determined.
    I like Brown over Wallace… but give him a 1st round tender… if lose, you get a draft pick which is good also.

  • ronwarz

    Won’t happen. Just like you don’t want to throw too much money at Wallace, you don’t want to throw too much into two first round picks, either. Trade up for DeCastro and do whatever you can to do it, especially since the top 10-15 players are paid 55% less than they used to be on average. Makes all sorts of sense and we don’t give up on Wallace. Tender Wallace as a first and match any offers that come in, then work out a long term deal that fits our future salary cap.

  • Steeltyke

    Jeremy’s comment of Poe and Glenn indicate that the extra pick would be in 2012. “Nobody”‘s comment of probable low or high picks indicates a 2013 pick. Which draft would the Steelers get the pick in?

  • i been saying the same thing!!!! if he stays good! but if he leaves we get good compensation plus i was not diggin his attitude!! seems like all he did was talk trash to every db that he went against and i heard how much he was crying about A.Brown was getting all the catches i would love to keep Cotchery love the guy and D.Bowe WOULD BE A HELL OF ADITION WITH Brown Sanders Cotchery don’t be surprised to see the Jets go after Wallace!!!!! Santonio would love to play with his boy again

  • Steady_dee

    I like your thinking. There are a number of positions where the Steelers need help both in terms of starters and overall depth. If we are going to keep up with the Ravens and Patriots who have been stocking up on youth and talent, we need to think creatively in terms of acquiring players especially since we had one of the oldest rosters last year. Look at the Pats who have 2 1’s and 2 2’s in this year’s draft. As for Mike Wallace, I was expecting another big improvement in his route running this year but I didn’t see it. He is still extremely valuable as a deep threat but he still isn’t the complete receiver he could be.

    Another thought, let’s drop down in the first round to get another pick or two. We have had success picking late in the round and we can do it again.

  • kevin

    This is silly. Wallace was the top rated WR in 2010 and in the top 5 for 2011 by advanced statistics. Did you ever think that perhaps he opens things up for Brown, Sanders and Cotchery? That teams placed an emphasis on stopping him near the end of the year. You don’t let special talent walk away for a first round pick and cap space.

  • Tanner

    The only reason Brown was open so much was because they had to put 2 guys on Wallace. If we got rid of Wallace then they would double team Brown and then he wouldnt be open anymore

  • Tanner

    Agree last year we only kept 4 of our picks on the team. Trade up and get DeCastro and then get the big DT from Washington in the 2 or 3 round thats all we need from the draft. Keep Wallace.

  • Paul

    You’re nuts. This offense going forward will be 60% pass with Todd Haley.
    Mean Joe Green is old and can’t play anymore.
    Besides their RBs are not that good, Mendenhall is hurt and Moore migght not come back
    The rest are overwieght jabronies

  • robber

    Don’t let your playmakers get away. Wallace is a playmaker. End of story.

  • John B.

    I just wish someone would teach him how to fight for the ball. If he did that, i’d never trade him. And the difference between Holmes and Wallace is in the hands.

  • JerryCola

    The way the league has evolved with passing, you don’t let a talent like Wallace who most likely has not reached his potential walk. The one thing about Wallace that worries me when I watched the Super Bowl was how the Patriots need a deep WR and with them having $20 million under the salary cap and an extra 1st round draft pick, I can see them signing Wallace to an offer sheet. The Patriots line of thinking would be strengthening their team while weakening a team they consider to be competition in the AFC.

  • I think we will end up with the 24 and 26 picks this year as Houston will decide to give Mike a deal we won’t be able to match.

    I do like the idea of trading one of them plus our 3rd for Decastro.

  • Lance_bull

    Worried the Pats could go after him to get the deep threat they have been missing since Moss was traded. We would only get the 31st pick overall. Would definitely not be worth it giving Brady that weapon and only getting a late first.

  • Christopher Merrifield

    AR2 is no longer in charge, daddy is coming home

  • Christopher Merrifield

    I would have been ok with this if Todd Haley wasnt the new OC, but I think Haley will help develop Wallace and make him a better receiver.

  • Lance_bull

    Worried the Pats will go after Walace to get the deep threat they have been lackin since they traded Moss. We would only get the 31st overall pick. Definitely would not be worth it to give Brady that weapon and only get a late first for him.

  • BAD, BAD Idea !!! I think if we Beefed up the O-Line and actually got some guys that want to block, with his speed he could potentially become the deep threat, that he is. The ENTIRE NFL is going to the passing game, you very rarely see many TRUE running(game) teams anymore. I think that we need to keep him !!!

  • Delilah

    I have had this same thought. It could be a great idea. Tomlin has called Wallace a ‘One Trick Pony’ in the past, and I don’t think Wallace has shown much development since, for all the reasons mentioned – doesn’t fight for the ball, doesn’t catch it at its highest point, not effective in the red zone, doesn’t/can’t block especially well, etc. While his burner/downfield ability is top notch, it’s all he really has in his weaponry. Also, blazing speed diminishes over time. Make no mistake, the guy is still one of the fastest in the league, but I bet his 40 time now is a hair off what it was a few years ago. And it will be even less towards the end of his next contract – with whatever team that may be. Yes, Art Rooney II publicly stated that they are bringing back Wallace. But I’m sure that statement was said before the coaching staff and player development staff have had time to sit down with him and discuss strategy for building next year’s team. Plus, these things are always fluid anyway – one thought expressed today can be changed to something else soon thereafter – especially after everyone gets their collective thoughts together. And don’t forget they have yet to get weigh-in from Todd Haley. As Jeremy suggested, I’d rather see the Steelers with a more well-rounded receiver that could be gotten by less expensive means (like Cochery). The value we could get for Wallace could outweigh what production we have been getting from him. Having two first round picks to possibly get a starting guard and nose tackle would be very hard to ignore. If it panned out that way, I’d say that is better value than keeping Wallace. And the dividens should come quickly, if not immediately.

  • Delilah

    Also, generally speaking, Jeremy writes well written as well as well thought out posts. This one is no exception. I find it to be one of his better posts. Whether you agree with the thinking or not is another issue. This is an interesting and thought-provoking article, regardless of which side of the idea you come down on.

  • Rcsteeler

    This is ridiculous. One of the reasons the Patriots just lost the Super Bowl is because they don’t have a receiver like Wallace. There’s very few receivers in the NFL that can stretch the field like Wallace. And the best part is he’s not the typical wacko prima dona receiver. I hope you don’t have aspirations of pursuing a career as a NFL GM anytime soon Mr. Hritz. Let’s make something clear. First round picks do not equal automatic NFL stars. How many examples do you want. You have a great player. Ben needs to work overtime this off season perfecting the deep pass. If he can do that just sit back and watch the TD’s pile up. Sign him and be grateful you have him.

  • Rsryan10

    I think its a great idea to let him go..besides the money you save, Wallace is SOFT….average route runner….and receiving a 1st rounder for him would be sweeet…we have sanders and Brown, and hopefully Cotchery…we need to draft O lineman, we have depth at receivers…not saying losing Wallace would be good, but we have bigger fish to fry elsewhere….I would, however, be reluctant to let the Patriots get him as that is a big need for them and we steelers dont want that, or the Ravens who could use wallace

  • GoSteelers

    first of all, its not the WR corp or ben. it was clearly the O-line and playcalling this season. a solid (and consistant) o-line will open holes for running and protect ben. get rid of kemo and scott, keep starks at minimum (depending on recovery), pick up a free-agent for the left side/backup and draft the rest. this combined with play calls that mix things up will bring the O into the top 10 if not top 5. of course we also need to coach mendenhall to stop the dancing and run up the gut more…

    however, more importantly, the defense is what needs a major shake up. the #1 ranking was very misleading. the D was never had a pass rush threat, never created turn overs, and could not hold leads (2009 the the 2nd 2011 Balt game are perfect examples). 2008 was the peak for that crew. keep harrison, timmons, troy, ike, and clark as starters. keep brett for a reduced roll with hood and hayward, and consider release/trade of most of the others. that includes lighting a fire under woodley’s butt and get him into conditioning. draft the rest and consider a free-agent corner.

  • Steelerfanmatt1933

    2012. Nobody is dumb.

  • Whhpgh

    We also had a better running game in Super Bowls XV & XVIII than we have now…and with the Steelers heading more toward a passing offense…think we should think long & hard before letting Wallace go.