New Castle News

July 26, 2012

Steelers Camp Opens: ‘This thing’ is bigger than Mike Wallace, Tomlin says

Ed Bouchette
Associated Press

LATROBE — Negotiations are suspended with no-show WR Wallace Mike Wallace took another stand when he did not report to training camp on time Wednesday, and now apparently the Steelers will take one of their own as the contract impasse between the two sides takes a new turn.

The Steelers will suspend negotiations on a multiple-year contract until Wallace signs his one-year tender and reports to the team, a club source said. As a restricted free agent, Wallace was offered a one-year contract worth $2,472,000 in March but he remains the only restricted free agent in the league who has not signed.

Wallace, who made the Pro Bowl in his third season last year, cannot practice until he is under contract, either by signing the one-year tender or by signing another contract offered by the team that has now been basically rescinded. Coach Mike Tomlin said after conducting a conditioning test for his players that "this thing" is bigger than Mike Wallace.

"Obviously Mike Wallace was not here today. I don't know when he's going to be here. Obviously, we have a desire for him to be here. We want him to be a part of this thing both short term and long term. We've been in negotiations with him. He's not here today. It's unfortunate for him.

"One thing that experience has taught me is that 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."

The stance of ending negotiations for a holdout has been taken by the team before, most recently when Hines Ward held out for the first two weeks of the 2005 training camp. Ward, however, had one year left on his contract at the time and was pressing for a new one. After ending his holdout, negotiations resumed and he received a four-year extension three weeks later.

"I'm less concerned about negotiations from a coach's standpoint," Tomlin said. "I want the player here. We've extended a tender to him, of course he hasn't signed it. But I'm focused on the guys here working, so I won't focus on him until he gets here."

Steelers president Art Rooney II declined comment on the situation Wednesday at a news conference to formally announce the signing of first-round draft choice David DeCastro. In June, Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, regarding Wallace's absence from all spring activities, "He should be here."

Said Tomlin: "This group that is the Pittsburgh Steelers will continue to push on. We'll focus our energies on readying the people who are here and, when he shows up, he shows up."

With a new offense installed by coordinator Todd Haley, the Steelers believe training camp becomes more important — even Max Starks, who missed a full camp and the first four games in 2011 until he was resigned and started the rest of the way at left tackle.

"I think, in general, all of us, every player should want to be in training camp," Starks said. "I mean, this is a new offense and there are a lot of little nuances, even though some things will be consistent as far as our coaching staff. But, as far as philosophy and what coach Haley wants to run, I think it's important to get in here at this pace when it's a little bit slower and get adjusted to it, get adjusted to the terminology. That's usually the biggest thing that usually hurts people is coming in to a new type of system with the terminology and everything and thinking that everything's consistent and it's not. I mean I'm just happy to be here so I can start digesting all of it."

While Wallace is out, Emmanuel Sanders will take his spot in the starting lineup. "I definitely will be in his spot at the 'X' position," Sanders said.

"But I got a good feeling that sometime, hopefully, about 4-5 or 3 days, Mike will be showing up. It will definitely be different, it's going to be OTAs all over again."

Tomlin would not say if Sanders could take the job from Wallace if his holdout stretches deep into camp or beyond. "I'm not going to get into the hypotheticals. What I'm going to do is work with Emmanuel Sanders because he's here, and be excited about doing it."

Wallace did pick up Haley's new playbook in the spring, and Sanders believes that he can learn plenty from it.

"Mike is a smart guy, he picks up on things fairly well. I don't have a problem with it, I doubt he'll have a problem with it. The coaches are going to do everything they can do to make sure he understands the playbook. "It's definitely just [X's] and O's, you don't get that experience you get being out here or in OTAs. But they'll give him his fair share of reps so he'll catch up with us."

(Ed Bouchette is the Pittsburgh Steelers beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This story was distributed by the Associated Press.)