Worth Of Mike Wallace: A Comparison To The Elite NFL Receivers

By Jeremy Hritz

It’s the end of June and Mike Wallace still has yet to sign a contract with the Steelers. Although teammate Ike Taylor has now said on two occasions that Wallace will be in camp, there have not been any formal updates on the progress of a new contract.

Back on March 21st, 49ers beat writer Matt Barrows reported that a 49er’s team source said they inquired about Wallace but were turned off because “he reportedly wanted” a contract that exceeded the one of Larry Fitzgerald, which is worth $128.5 million over eight years. Whether or not that is true we just don\’t know. The Steelers do not have a reputation for paying big money for wide receivers, and in fact, they have a history of letting them walk (see Yancey Thigpen, Antwaan Randle El, Nate Washington and Plaxico Burress). If Barrows’ report is accurate, it could be the primary reason for the delay.

The question has since been debated of whether or not Wallace is worth such a contract, but Steelers Depot reader Tim asked an interesting question via email: does Antonio Brown make Wallace less valuable to the Steelers?

To draw a valid conclusion here, we need to look at other top receivers in contract years and the second and third receivers on those teams. For the purpose of this article, we will take a brief look at Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, and Calvin Johnson. The table below provides a look at these three receivers, along with the second and third leading receivers from their teams.

TeamReceiverStats Prior to Contract YearDate of ContractContract Length/Contract Value
ArizonaLarry Fitzgerald (2010)174 targets, 90 receptions, 1137 yards, 6 touchdowns8/20/20118 years, $128.5 million
ArizonaSteve Breaston (2010)88 targets, 47 receptions, 718 yards, 1 touchdownN/AN/A
ArizonaEarly Doucet (2010)58 targets, 26 receptions, 291 yards, 1 touchdownN/AN/A
HoustonAndre Johnson (2009)170 targets, 101 receptions, 1569 yards, 9 touchdowns8/5/20107 years, $73.5 million
HoustonKevin Walter (2009)70 targets, 53 receptions, 611 yards, 2 touchdownsN/AN/A
HoustonDavid Anderson (2009)54 targets, 38 receptions, 370 yards, 0 touchdownsN/AN/A
DetroitCalvin Johnson (2011)158 targets, 98 receptions, 1681 yards, 16 touchdowns3/14/20128 years, $132 million
DetroitNate Burleson (2011)110 targets, 73 receptions, 757 yards, 3 touchdownsN/AN/A
DetroitTitus Young (2011)84 targets, 48 receptions, 607 yards, 6 touchdownsN/AN/A
PittsburghMike Wallace (2011)113 targets, 72 receptions, 1193 yards, 8 touchdownsN/AN/A
PittsburghAntonio Brown (2011)123 targets, 69 receptions, 1108, 2 touchdownsN/AN/A
PittsburghHines Ward (2011)63 targets, 46 receptions, 381 yards, 2 touchdownsN/AN/A

A few points of interest leap out in this table. Firstly, Wallace’s production is very comparable to Fitzgerald’s in his contract year (Fitzgerald: 93/1137/6-Wallace: 72/1193/8). However, when looking at the number two and three receivers for Arizona from Fitzgerald’s contract year, it is apparent those players, Breaston and Doucet, were not as effective as Brown and Ward. So even with Fitzgerald drawing primary coverage, Breaston and Doucet combined could not equal Brown’s performance (it has to be noted that they had Derek Anderson and John Skelton throwing the ball). This makes a case for Brown’s effectiveness.

When looking at Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson in their contract years, their stat lines eclipse that of Wallace. Andre Johnson outgained Wallace by 376 yards and three touchdowns, while Calvin Johnson outgained him by 488 yards and ten touchdowns. The second and third receivers for Houston did not achieve what Brown and Ward did, yet Burleson and Young had more receptions and seven more touchdowns for the Lions.  The following table compares second and third receivers.

Second/Third ReceiversTargets/ReceptionsYardsTouchdowns
Steelers (Brown, Ward)186/11514892
Lions (Burleson, Young)194/12113649
Cardinals (Breaston, Doucet)146/7310092
Texans (Walter, Anderson)124/919812

Is Wallace asking for too much money? When considering the performance of Brown, the answer to that question may be yes. While the counter argument will be made that Wallace absorbed coverage that freed up Brown, what to make of his production after he established himself as a legitimate receiver?

Another point to made is that you Wallace’s drop in production cannot completely be attributed to coverage schemes. If bolstered coverage always accounts for a decrease in production, then what to make of Andre Johnson, whom with less-than-stellar number two and three receivers, was still able to rack up nearly 1600 yards and nine touchdowns (I’ll acknowledge Owen Daniels here who had 40 receptions for 509 yards and five touchdowns, but tight ends are not our focus).

So what does it all mean in the end? The Steelers probably feel confident about the abilities of Brown to be the primary receiver in the event that Wallace doesn’t sign long-term, considering the depth that they have at the position. Consequently, they are not willing to part with exorbitant money to pay him in the range of any of the receivers mentioned above. While Wallace has proven his value by stretching the field, he has not proven himself to be a complete receiver like Fitzgerald or either of the Johnsons.

The amount of money that Wallace allegedly wants would make him the highest paid Steeler, but in reality, only the most important and critical players should be paid as such. While Wallace is a tremendous talent that has made several huge plays in his first three years, he is not as vital to the team as is Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, or LaMarr Woodley. When either of these players misses a game, it impacts the win/loss column, and Wallace just isn’t in that category yet.

  • Daveb1952

    Drafting Rainey and Clemmons dropped Wallace’s value to the Steelers as well. Make no mistake, Wallace is an asset to the firm, but I am in total agreement with the final assessment of the author, The fact is, he is not esential personel, and doesn’t deserve to be paid like it.

  • 8forty

    Great analysis. Seems like Steelers are going to have to pay at least one of these receivers, but now’s not the time, and Wallace probably isn’t the guy.

  • Danpio1217

    Meh, dunno about Clemmons changing Wallace’s value. Maybe the resigning of Cothery, but not drafting a nobody in round 7.

  • Mancoljduf11

    Can we please just shut up!!!!!!! Wallace has already said that the rumor about the Fitzgerald money was false, and the two sides are working towards it I could sit hear and write why everything in this article is wrong for hours but I figure it would just be a waste of time!!!!!!!!!!!

  • RIP

    Pay the man Shirley

  • Then Don’t waste you time reading them !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and further more don’t waste OUR time by posting !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Clintmartin

    Are you having a bad day? Wallace isn’t even as good as Jordy Nelson and I am a huge Steelers fan.

  • Krbell19

    Good article, but i do want to point out that Wallace had 8 tds, not 6. And lets not act like our lack of ability to run the football and Ben’s injury didnt hurt Wallace, both did. While your statement about Andre putting up numbers with no help and him being more of a complete receiver is true, i don’t think that he has seen the type of coverage that was used on Wallace last year. Who plays punt coverage on a receiver? Calvin also saw it last year as well. The type of speed Wallace possesses is extremely rare and teams had to do what they could to slow him down.

    If anything i feel that Wallace deserves Vincent Jackson type of money.

    And Nelson being better than Wallace? Thats a joke. Don’t act like he doesn’t play with Greg Jennings and Finely. They make him and that was proven when Jennings got hurt.

  • Ashfardmufusa777788889999

    jordy nelson is the antonio brown of the GreenBay Packers, just like victor cruze is the Antonio Brown of the Giants, players who put together a nice stretch of about 8-10 games and then get overhypede by fans and media when really it is just because they are facing single coverage against a teams #2 corner, if you put brown in grenbay and nelson in pittsburgh it would be the exact same thing

  • Wallace is never going to be Fitz or either Johnson, they are tall.

    Wallace is great, but he isn’t tall enough to be dominant. The best comparison to a current player for him is Greg Jennings of GB.

    They had very similar stats fro their first three years and their teams had good receiver depth.

  • SteelerDave

    Very well said and agree 100%

  • Jordy Nelson had an excellent year and he is under one of the most team-friendly contracts in the league, but Nelson has one year out of four as even a competent wide receiver.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I agree with the writer that he isnt necessary but I still think he is an important cog in the system and should be retained

  • SteelSpine

    Right on top to bottom. & THANKS Jeremy for finding the source of the comment of Wallace supposedly requested Fitz money, because a poster here kept running with that but I never heard Wallace nor agent quoted or credited with saying such to anyone, especially not to any Steeler staff. Turns out it was just one writer, writing about big-spender 49ers.

    Wallace is very-good, not elite because not the physical presence or leaping threat of top red-zone WRs. But for Steelers it’s good.

    No question Brown reduces need for Wallace, & also Steelers history of not spending top dollar for receivers. Wallace might be worth $8 mil per year to other teams which don’t have our amount of talent at WR, that’s why I’d try to trade him to speed-loving Raiders for a 2nd-round pick in next draft. Nobody wanted to give up a 1st rounder for him, so maybe a 2nd rounder. We made some cap room to sign Wallace but we could use that money instead to sign Starks because we’re much-more desparate for a LT than for another good receiver.

    Trades being so rare though, my hunch is Steelers brass are trying to get Wallace to split the difference between worth ~$6 mil per year to Steelers but ~$9 mil/year to other teams.

  • ellivrkarens

    you know your comment started off so well and then it just went downhill starting with “not elite”, and hit rock bottom when you made that statement about max starks, that was stupid, starks will only cost 1 mil per season at the most, and besides if starks cost 8 mil per season then they absolutley would not resingh him!!!!!

  • ellivrkarens

    and also there is a reason they drafted mike adams and took a chance on him and that is to play and not to sit on the bench as a backup!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ahmad

    Best article on Wallace I’ve read all off season.

  • Wallace is def. not worth over 9 million a yr…… If he was he would of been Franchised….. I say 6 million to 7 at very tops…….. He just hasn’t put in enough time for a contract like that… Maybe if he had a another yr. of ridicolous stats then maybe…… I hope they sign the guy but it ain’t going to happen he will walk like the others did…… And they will draft a guy just like they did with Wallace and Brown…. They aren’t going to pay alot especially when there are quite a few FA’s next yr. and there already projected to be over the cap as of now…… He’s not going to be a steeler much longer…….