The Pittsburgh Steelers opened camp without one of its core weapons, speedy receiver Mike Wallace, who wants a new contract. Since he did not get one by Wednesday’s deadline imposed by the team, he stayed away. And now there is real speculation on when he will report because the Steelers indicated they will not reopen talks until he does.
Wallace is not under contract, so he cannot be fined for his absences. He caught 72 passes for 1,193 yards and eight passing touchdowns last season, all team highs. In three seasons, he has 171 catches for 3,206 yards and 24 TDs.
Each side traded proposals earlier in the week, but could not come to an agreement. But with Wallace not reporting for the start of camp, sources told ESPN that Pittsburgh does not plan to negotiate.
“Obviously, we have a desire for him to be here,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We want him to be part of this thing, both short term and long term. We’ve been in negotiations with him. He’s not here today. That’s unfortunate for him.”
Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis was a high school teammate of Wallace’s, and the two worked out “every day” over the summer along with other players in the New Orleans area.
Lewis proclaimed Wallace “in the best shape he’s ever been in,” and predicted he would eventually arrive at camp.
“I’m pretty sure he’ll be here,” Lewis said. “He’s a football player, he loves playing the game. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to sit out.”
Wallace skipped all of the team’s off-season workouts and has not signed his $2.7 million first-round tender. The Steelers have the franchise tag available after the season if Wallace plays out this year under the one-year restricted tender.
“I want the player here,” Tomlin said. “One thing experience has taught me is this is bigger than all of us. It’s bigger than Mike, it’s bigger than me. So I mean that when I say it’s unfortunate for him that he’s not here.”
General manager Kevin Colbert reiterated last month the speedy Wallace remains in the team’s future plans. “Our intention has always been to sign Mike to a long-term contract,” Colbert said.