If you look hard enough, you can see Mike Wallace standing on a dock down by the Allegheny River watching his boat full of cash float away without him…
The Steelers’ organized team activities, better known as OTA’s, begin on Tuesday. The OTA’s are fairly important for newcomers to the team, whether it be newly acquired free agents or freshly drafted rookies. These particular OTA’s are important because of the team’s new offensive coordinator Todd ‘Scruffy’ Haley. This will be the first chance for the players to get acquainted with the new offensive schemes. I hear Rossetta Stone Inc. employees will be on hand to give out free trials of their Haley Offense Translations software (har har har, right Ben?)
A few players will be missing from those OTA’s – some injured, some not, but none more notable than Mike Wallace. Wallace, because of his refusal to sign his tender and the Steelers equal refusal to pay him the money he doesn’t really quite deserve yet, cannot attend the OTA’s. The way this situation is playing out, chances are Wallace won’t be attending anything until at least camp or after. And that doesn’t bode well for Wallace’s immediate and long term future.
If Ben is anywhere near correct about the complexity of Todd Haley’s offense, then the offense as a whole will need to rely heavily on these OTA’s to become familiar with the playbook. In my opinion (and I’m guessing many will agree) training camp is NOT meant for the team to learn the offense (or defense). The books have been handed out long ago, and the players should have studied up on every bit of each play. Camp is meant to gauge athlete vs. athlete and how each ‘fits’ into the overall team. Camp is about refining and finding the nuances within each play. Familiarity becomes mastery. Quarterbacks improve timing with their receivers. Audibles are crafted. Each player is ‘on the same page’ as it were, so that communication does not breakdown out on the field. Sometimes camp isn’t long enough for all of that to happen. How many times have we seen in Weeks 1-3 routes break down, snap counts jumped, and even the wrong route be run by any given receiver? Too often than I would like to admit. But it’s all part of the growing pains of a team becoming a new cohesive group… and that’s when it’s an already implemented offense (or defense). Just think of the added complexity of having to practically start over with a new OC.
This is where I see the beginning of the end for Money Bags Wallace. The longer he waits, the less time he has to learn. Should he wait until the end of camp to sign, it will take weeks for him to learn everything. He may be physically ready to play, but far from mentally ready. The Steelers will use him in a limited fashion – basically a one trick pony again until he can get better at the other routes. Sound familiar? A huge step backwards my Mike Wallace fans. Should he wait until the last moment to sign a contract with the team (November), that will spell even bigger disaster. No stats = no $$ (not to mention numerous teams who will run away from a hold out like Wallace faster than the advances of their first cousin).
The less time Wallace has on the field, the less opportunity he will have to catch a pass attempt. The less opportunity he will have to make a big splash play. The less opportunity to turn heads and impress teams with big cap room in 2013 – you obviously didn’t do enough in a Pro Bowl year in 2012, so what makes anyone think anything less productively will translate into that big contract? And through it all, it won’t mean anything for the Steelers. The longer he waits the less the Steelers will want to sign. The more productive Antonio Brown and Co are the less the Steelers will want to sign. His unwillingness to accept the tender after the draft will only continue to create a divide between himself and the front office. Wallace needed to pull an Ace before the draft and instead pulled a Two of Spades. He gambled and lost. Time to suck it up, work hard, play hard and get those big bucks next season.
Quick, someone run down to that dock and let him know that there’s still a chance for an even bigger boat with even more money to pull up – all he has to do is sign and get back onto that football field. Quick, someone get down there and save him because he obviously can’t save himself.