After Further Review: The Grand Return of Mike Wallace
By: The Football Girl | Posted: August 28, 2012
The wait is over. Wide receiver Mike Wallace finally reported to Steelers headquarters this morning and signed his $2.742 million restricted free agent tender today, ending months of media speculation and hand-wringing. With his arrival, Wallace brings a fair amount of relief and excitement, but also question marks and a possible dose of turmoil.
The Steelers have undergone an offensive regime change this offseason, with Todd Haley filling Bruce Arians’ shoes. Although Haley has deferred questions about his emphasis on the run game, explaining that the emphasis will be on winning, the odds of him fully embracing Arians’ pass-happy aerial attack are slim. And he has definitely implemented his own playbook, which Wallace picked up during his holdout. Time will tell just how well Wallace absorbed his study materials.
Time may also prove to be an enemy of the newly returned receiver. There are twelve days remaining before the Sunday Night season opener against the Broncos. After signing his tender, Wallace will be required to sit out of organized team events for three days, which means he will not participate in Thursday’s preseason game against Carolina. The team also plans to take off Friday, Saturday and Sunday before beginning game week practice leading up to their Denver trip. This means Wallace won’t see any action until Monday at the earliest. He proved himself a quick study with an impressive rookie campaign, but getting fully up to speed in five practice days is asking a lot.
But Wallace is nothing if not speedy, and regardless of what’s written in the playbook, his ability to spread the field and draw defenders will be of immediate assistance to the Steelers’ offense. His presence will open up an offense that has looked a bit stale to date this preseason. Starters have been used sparingly, of course, but aside from a Ben Roethlisberger-orchestrated 98-yard drive late in the second quarter against Buffalo, there has been little to write home about in early offensive outings. Wallace’s return will rectify that.
There’s rarely much to complain about when a Pro Bowl receiver finds his way back to the roster, but will lingering contract issues affect his play? The Steelers organization does not historically negotiate during the regular season, so if a deal is not struck before September 9th, Wallace will be in a state of limbo leading up to his unrestricted free agency. Fellow receiver Antonio Brown was rewarded for good behavior with a five year, $42.5 million deal after Wallace failed to report to camp. The Steelers were prepared to move forward with Brown as their number one receiver, had the holdout continued into the regular season. Might that present itself as a chemistry issue among receivers?
Finally, I can’t help but think of a speedy receiver who held out during last year’s camp, made a valiant return before the regular season, and proceeded to perform shockingly below his capabilities. The DeSean Jackson who produced the New Miracle at the New Meadowlands was nowhere to be found once contract negotiations stalled, and the Eagles’ offense suffered for it. Though Philadelphia rewarded his pitiful 2011 campaign with a staggering $47 million contract, there’s no way the Rooney family would respond to such behavior in a similar way. If Wallace doesn’t produce up to his established abilities this season, I’d be surprised to see him back in the black and yellow in 2013.
Kim O'Hara is the Assocate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @arahomik
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