The first rookie camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers is now in the books and next up is the first team OTA session that is scheduled to get rolling on May 22nd. That next session is when the rookies and veterans will all hit the field together in Pittsburgh.
One player that is surely not to be present two weeks from tomorrow is restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace, who has still yet to sign his first round one-year tender offer of $2.742 million that was issued to him before the free agency period began. The Steelers also have their first official mini-camp on the books for June 12-14 and it would be surprising if the Steelers 2009 third round draft pick is present for that as well.
The day after the June mini-camp session wraps up is the day that the Steelers are allowed to reduce their tender to Wallace by 110 percent of last year\’s salary and still retain his rights. Although they have the right to do just that, it doesn\’t mean that they will and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette told 93.7 The Fan on Monday that he doubts the Steelers will indeed take that course of action. Instead they will do nothing speculates Bouchette.
Playing hardball with Wallace could end up just making it tougher to get a long-term deal done down the road and by leaving the tender of Wallace alone, the Steelers will be making a good faith gesture to Wallace and his agent Bus Cook. While it would be nice to have Wallace around for the OTA and mini-camp sessions while new offensive coordinator Todd Haley puts in his new offense, it will not be the end of the world if Wallace is not present. As long as he is in training camp on time or shortly after it begins, Wallace will have plenty of time to learn the Rosetta Stone playbook, which it is jokingly referred to by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers will not cave to the high contract demands that are evidently being made right now by Wallace, but they will not punish him for standing his ground either by reducing his tender. General Manager Kevin Colbert has made it known all offseason that getting Wallace signed to a long-term deal is a priority, but you know that they have a contract value in mind that they will not budge far from. It is just how they do business.
While Wallace and his agent could decide to play hardball throughout training camp and into the start of the regular season, it will not do them any good. The longer Wallace holds out once training camp begins, the more he will be vilified by the black and gold fan base and the media. The Steelers have a long history of not negotiating with players who are unhappy with their contracts until they report to camp and this is when I now expect Wallace to show. He might be a week late, but he will show and that is when the two sides can get busy again talking numbers. Until then you can expect an upcoming summer of OTA and mini-camps without Wallace.