Options If The Steelers Are Forced To Move On From Mike Wallace

By Cian Fahey

It is unlikely that Mike Wallace leaves the Pittsburgh Steelers when free agency begins next week but the chance remains as Wallace is a restricted free agent (breaking news I know). In my mind, there are two teams who could likely make a run at Wallace.

Those teams are the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers.

If the Patriots sign Wallace, the Steelers will get the 31st pick in the draft. If the 49ers sign Wallace, then the team will get the 30th overall selection. The Steelers would have the option of using that selection on a receiver but wouldn\’t be forced to because they have other avenues of replacing Wallace.

Even with Hines Ward\’s release, the Steelers still have two other receivers capable of starting in the form of Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders and Brown are the only two remaining wide receivers the team has under contract from last season\’s 53 man roster after Arnaz Battle was released and Jerricho Cotchery is a free agent.

Re-signing Cotchery would be a must if Wallace leaves.

Cotchery was the team\’s third choice receiver by season\’s close and would allow the team some continuity with a new offensive co-ordinator coming in. Re-signing Cotchery would mean that the team would just have to find a fourth receiver on their depth chart. Something that they have proven they can do in the latter rounds of the draft in the past.

Kevin Colbert has built the team\’s current receiving corp with two third round picks and a sixth rounder. Bringing in a receiver later in the draft, or adding a free agent of that caliber, is a plausible route for the franchise to go.

Going that way would allow the team to use the two first round draft picks to improve other areas of the team.

Depending on how much faith the coaching staff and management has in Sanders stepping up into a starting role, or indeed bringing back Cotchery as a starter, the Steelers will either need to sign a number three or number one receiver.

This year\’s free agent market has options for both.

Eddie Royal, Cotchery, Steve Smith, Patrick Crayton and Lee Evans could all be capable depth players for the Steelers. The most intriguing potential role player the Steelers could sign is Ted Ginn Jr. of the 49ers.

Much like Wallace was used as a rookie, Ginn could be used as the third receiver to simply stretch the defense. While he may not be as effective as Wallace, he could fill the role to complement the other players around him.

If the Steelers want to be more adventurous and aggressive, they could make a move for a starting receiver. Vincent Jackson won\’t come cheap, and is likely not an option because of his character, but Marques Colston and Brandon Lloyd are relatively cheap options.

The biggest worry with signing Colston would be the cold weather in Pittsburgh. Colston has spent his entire career playing in New Orleans in a dome. Asking him to make tough receptions down the field, or over the middle, is a different thing come playoff time in Pittsburgh.

Lloyd is a very intriguing option because he possesses a lot of speed, not as much as Wallace but he can fill the same role as a starter. The biggest problem with bringing Lloyd in is the competition. Lloyd should be a hot property with the St. Louis Rams and Patriots expected to be fighting for his signature.

Those free agents are more realistic options, but there is a less likely player that the Steelers should consider.

Generally when a 35 year old receiver comes out of retirement, I\’m the first to write him off. However, Randy Moss is a special case. Moss retired before last season after being cut by the Patriots and released by the Vikings the previous year.

Moss had a horrible final season in the NFL, but not for the same reasons most aging receivers do. He obviously never overcame being cut by the Patriots and it affected his season mentally. Moss\’ physical attributes were still there, but he had no interest in playing football.

He could repeatedly be seen not trying and giving up on plays.

A year out of football appears to have made Moss hungry to return. Unlike his last season, when he was infatuated by a new contract entering the season, Moss has already said that he would play for no guaranteed money this year if he gets an opportunity.

He got a chance to workout with the New Orleans Saints recently and supposedly couldn\’t have looked better. If Moss has his physical skills still in tact, even if he has suffered some drop off he was so far ahead of everyone else physically that he would still be a starting caliber receiver, and is motivated to play, it could be a major coup for the Steelers.

The risk of course is that the Steelers no longer have the veteran locker room that they had last year with an emotive offensive coordinator and quarterback in place.

Moss would be a risk, but the reward has to be tempting.

In an ideal world, Wallace will be re-signed to a long-term deal before ever hitting free agency. These situations have to be explored until that moment arrives however.

What do you think the Steelers should do if Wallace leaves?

You can follow Cian on Twitter at @Cianaf

  • JohnnyV1

    If Mike Wallace leaves via RFA (to maybe the Bears, or 49ers?) and the Steelers get a 2nd 1st Rd’er. I say sign Cotchery, which they will anyway. Then, they go after two more. Try for Plaxico with a 1yr incentive loaded deal. Also try for UFA Robert Meachem. Then they can draft their ILB, OG and NT/DL with their two first rounders and second rounder. Pick a WR in the 3rd/4th Rd.

  • Joe D

    The Patriots and 49’rs have the same choices… WITHOUT giving up a 1st round pick!!!

  • SteelersDepot

    Um, that’s pretty obvious isn’t it?

  • PaHiker72

    Not that it matters, but Colston is a Harrisburg boy. He knows PA weather. But I see your point…

  • Jefferson St. Joe

    If old receivers are being considered, I’d definitely look at Moss before Burress. I’d really like to see them try him out, at the least. Its been a while since Moss has had a QB who could get it deep like Ben.

  • PoKey21

    Wallace has more talent and potential than anyone on the list. Now whether the Patriots or 49ers want to give up a 1st round pick and pay him the money he is worth is a different story. Its a benefit though that there are all these WRs this year. Hopefully the Pats and 49ers make some offers to unrestricted FAs first, before coming after Wallace. And if Wallace does leave I think Burress can be added to a list of possble candidates. Can stretch the field, obviously can handle the weather, is familiar with pittsburgh, and still has a couple years in him. Not saying it will happen, but its as good as chance as anyone.

  • Ox-burgh

    they should sign Vincent Jackson then go after McNutt in the 3rd or 4th round(assuming he’s availble)

  • Guest

    Hopefully the Steelers resign Wallace, and then Cotchery. Barring that, I would say that Eddie Royal would be the best choice. When he was healthy (and had a QB that could throw), he was a great slot receiver that ran nice routes.

    Just hoping the Steelers are able to keep Wallace.

  • I can’t believe I just read Intriguing and Ted Ginn in the same sentence. I wouldn’t put him on my roster for free as anything but a return man. Ginn DOES NOT stretch defenses. He averages a very mediocre 12.9 yards per reception.

    If we lose Wallace, Colston is my first choice followed by Lloyd or Smith with a draft pick like Streeter or Hill.

  • Colston plus a first isn’t a big drop from Wallace. Colston doesn’t stretch the field like Wallace, but they have put up similar numbers over the past three years.

    I don’t see Burress having all that much left in the tank, he was overrated in the first place.

  • Jb

    I strongly doubt the Steelers would go after any of the WR options mentioned in the article… except Cotchery, of course. Moss is a putz! Why people still think he’s okay because he “might” give a team 3 to 5 great plays in a season, is beyond me. Don’t you people watch football? The reason we loved players like Hines is because he gave such great effort on almost every play. And, he got it done in the playoffs and Super Bowls. Burress is the only receiver the Steelers might consider, but he is looking for a decently high dollar amount in his contract this coming season. Whether that’s realistic, or not, is yet to be seen.

    Pittsburgh will probably draft another receiver in the middle-rounds of this draft, especially if they lose Wallace. But, even if they use a second first-round pick for receiver it would be highly unlikely that he would be as good as Wallace. Just because the last three receivers taken in previous drafts (Wallace, Saunders & Brown) have been good, or even really good picks, doesn’t translate to the Steelers being that fortunate once again. Fans seem to forget “all” the past supposedly great receiver picks that Pittsburgh “whiffed” on… remember Sweeny?

    Simply, if the Steelers do lose Wallace they will not be as strong at receiver. As a fan theirs hoping that Saunders and Brown will take another higher level of progression as receivers. Also, fans need to hope that Pittsburgh will make the correct moves that will strengthen the offensive line, and defensive moves that will still keep the opponents scoring down while improving on the pass-rush to become more consistent in the 2012′ season.

  • timrankin

    If Wallace leaves, we’re perfectly capable of re-building the WR corps through the draft, after re-signing Cotchery. Patriots will not sign Wallace; it would either be the 49’ers, or Bears like Johnny mentions below. But it’s looking like he’ll stay in Pgh, which is my #1 choice.

  • Steve McCracken

    No Moss, No Moss!!

  • Paul

    None of those choices impress me, Lloyd would be the best, Vincent Jackson would be the best but he will be too expensive, Ben would love him

  • James

    If we can’t afford to keep Wallace we cant afford Jackson

  • James

    Agreed – Ginn is a return man, nothing more.
    I still expect us to keep Wallace and draft another receiver in a later round.

  • Joe D

    Which goes back to your other article…
    Steelers in drivers seat or in control…
    Both articles go hand in hand!!!

  • Lpjake

    Zero chance the Steelers sign Moss. Better chance they bring back Plaxico!!

  • SteelersDepot

    two different authors and view points here. He is saying “IF”, not that he thinks he will. Geesh. SMH

  • Guest

    You can stretch the defense without actually catching the football. Just by clearing out defenders you are already filling your role. Ginn has the speed to do that.

  • Pittsburgh John

    Plaxico, JohnnyV1 why not TO and you would have 2 cancers on the team. The guy is a piece of human garbage!!! Take a first rounder for Wallace. He is coward over the middle and drops too many passes. Receivers are a dime a dozen. How about getting back to the defensive days. That is what cost us. See: New Orleans loss – you got to be kidding me!!! Dick Lebau was the greatest but his time has come to leave. We need a great defensive mind.

  • Stan

    I don’t think there are any options really. We’d only have the $2.7M to spend that is Wallace’s spot right now. Most of that would go to pay the extra first round pick we have and the rest would go to pay our new 3rd receiver (hopefully Cotchery). We’d have to take a wideout in the first 3 rounds to give us quality depth at the position but I think we’d be fine. Sanders and Brown are still an above-average starting pair to go with our 3rd guy (again, hopefully Cotchery).

  • The Steel Pitt

    I agree. For sure. I was going to say the same thing exempt Meachem. Very interesting idea.

  • The Steel Pitt

    Agreed. But we have had great selections in the draft. Everyone can bring up one bad pick that went bad mainly do to injury. But the success of the draft is there and they will take a mid round receiver and build strength of O line and the box of the D (DL and LB) 1st and 2nd rounds.

    Also agree that the only option outside the draft is Paxico but if Philly offers a high number he is gone. We have never been big movers on free agency.

  • JerryCola

    Resign Cotchery and try to get one of those 2nd level players the Steelers seem so adept at getting when they do dip into free-agency and draft one in rounds 3-4. I would not draft one with the two 1st round picks unless they package them to move up for someone like Blackmon, which I don’t see them doing.

  • Dan

    I’m not in favor of making personnel decisions based on demands of other players, but if we were to lose BA, Hines and Wallace all in the same year, I’d say it is time to let Ben know we aren’t completely abandoning the passing game. In this case, I’d say we give his buddy Plax a chance if the price it right. Although I wouldn’t have terribly high expectations. Obviously Moss is a fun topic to discuss but isn’t a realistic possibility for the Steelers. Could he really have a positive attitude for 16 games (or more importantly 19 games) in a row?

  • Ginn is missing an essential part of that equation. HE DOESN’T CATCH. Doesn’t matter how much speed he has, he has never been a deep threat, and nobody is afraid of him going deep. He did not stretch the defense in Miami, he did not do it in SF. Why should we all the sudden think he can do it on his third team?

  • Yep, and Jackson is a downgrade with baggage.

  • Why is everyone so high on Burress? Steelers fans love to mention the supposed chemistry between him and Ben, but while the connected on some nice plays, Burress’s only year with Ben was not all that impressive. Add in to that that he has been a pretty much constant head case and he is 8 years removed from that year, and anything over vet minimum is overpaying for him. Even then, if we are relying on Burress to be our deep threat/replacement for Wallace, we are already screwed.

  • Nolrog

    I would say they need a #2 or a #3. Brown is the #1.

    Wallace leaving would give them the opportunity to get Poe (trading 2 #1s to move up) or draft 2 players who should start (maybe Hightower and one of the guards people are high on) then going for a WR in the 2nd and a nose in the 3rd or even another guard in the 2nd and going for a speedy WR later on.

    Unfortunately, losing Wallace opens up a lot of options.

    Ultimately, I think they’ll agree on a ~4ish year deal, will be the best possible outcome.

  • Kingmagyar

    Kendall Wright in round 1, another in round 4, Antonio Brown, Emanuel Sanders, and Jerricho Cotchery. We could lose Wallace as late as April 20th giving us no time to sign any free agents.

  • They aren’t going to pick a WR in the first round. They have had too little success and they have much bigger needs that will have more talented players available in that spot.

  • Poe is NOT worth two 1s. Especially not with such a deep NT class. The difference between Poe and Te’Amu is not enough to warrant that.

    Hightower and Barron or one of the Guards are much more likely options.

  • Axel718

    I say let Wallace go but like Joe D said, the Pats and Niners can fill their needs without giving up a first round pick. I am more concerned with losing Antonio Brown. Brown is a much better receiver, far better route runner and maybe a half step slower than Wallace. Wallace drops way too many passes. With the Superbowl on the line, he couldn’t pull in a pass that hit him in the hands. Again in the playoffs against Denver, he dropped an easy 50 yard pass. I just don’t trust his hands, too inconsistent especially with the game on the line…….

  • Kingmagyar

    Well if you can call failure at WR in the first round Lynn Swann, Plaxico Burress, and Santonio Holmes who wins the super bowl for us, then I guess your right. It’s not like any of those guys was Limas Sweed. And what Guard or Nose Tackle will be left with a first round grade when we pick at 24 -31? We would have 2 picks as well. The ILBs and WRs will have first round grades. Kendall Wright/Stephen Hill and Donta Hightower. Guard in the 2nd, NT in the 3rd.

  • Jayme96

    They have to resign Wallace to a long-term deal. He is what makes the O go, moreso than anyone next to Roethlisberger. If we were unfortunate enough to lose him though, I would go for Stephen Hill in the 1st. I’d also be hoping the Bears signed Wallace instead of the Cheatriot scum though. 19th pick could mean a trade up for DeCastro or Reiff is within reason. Fill the WR slot in the 2nd or 3rd (or FA, although I don’t think they have the cap space to sign one if they want to retain BROWN next year!).