The Pittsburgh Steelers have decided to play hardball when it comes to renegotiating the contract of star wide out Mike Wallace.
By now it is no surprise that fans and media alike in Pittsburgh and across the nation have argued that Wallace is only hurting himself by holding out.
Yet, what may come as a huge surprise to everyone, including the diehards in the Steel City, is that the Steelers are actually wrong in this instance.
Instead of working on an extension agreeable to both Wallace and the organization, the Steelers went out and signed teammate Antonio Brown to a long-term deal. It is true that Brown finished the season with 69 receptions for 1,108 yards and 2 TDs, but it was the first season the third-year veteran has produced such numbers. Wallace, on the other hand, has been consistent throughout his three seasons in Pittsburgh, hauling in 171 receptions for 3,206 yards and 24 TDs during that time span.
How can the Steelers' brass be so sure that Brown's numbers weren't a product of playing alongside Wallace, who oftentimes demanded double coverage?
The short answer is they can't and they know it. Pittsburgh is taking a huge risk that Antonio Brown, in his second season as a receiver, proves to be a more than capable No. 1 wide receiver in the absence of Wallace. Problem is they have no one else to stretch the field, so defenses will be able to key in on Brown. Combine that with the fact that the Black and Gold had a hard time keeping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger upright last season(he was sacked 40 times), and the decision to let Wallace holdout of training camp seems like a recipe for disaster.
Adding insult to injury is that the Steelers must turn to the green Isaac Redman in the backfield. Redman performed admirably last season in place of the injured Rashard Mendenhall(torn ACL), but it is uncertain whether he is up to the task of being the featured back for the entire season. The timetable for Mendenhall's return is uncertain, as recovery from ACL surgery is very hard to predict.
So, while popular opinion is that Mike Wallace is only hurting himself by holding out from training camp, in this instance, the Steelers might have the most to lose. Even if he misses the entire 2012 season, there is bound to be a huge demand for his services during the following offseason. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is gambling that a one-year wonder kid can do it again, and has no potential safety net should this deal fall through. For an organization that has been regarded as one of the shrewdest front offices in the NFL, this move would seem out of character.