Kovacevic: Steelers vs. Wallace? No mas, Mike

| Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 1:14 a.m.

The clock's about to strike midnight on the Steelers' draft, and, oh, if only that were a joke. Because of the NFL's bright idea last year to move the first round to Thursday prime time, plus enough ticks between picks for Demaryius Thomas to run a route to China, the local club didn't announce Cam Heyward's 31st overall selection last year until 11:26 p.m.

Dont'a Hightower?

Dontari Poe?

How about Don't Touch that Dial for Six Hours?

Whichever way the Steelers go — and it sure sounds like they don't know anymore than anyone on the outside — here's one name I'll promise you won't cross their minds in all that time: Mike Wallace.

Nor should it.

Wallace has made a bigger splash in the past month than with anything achieved on the field in the second half of last season. In late March, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that, once Wallace is a free agent, he'll seek money in the range of Larry Fitzgerald's $120 million. And this week came word from ESPN that Wallace is planning a holdout.

What next, rooms booked at the Canton Marriott?

A little background …

Shortly after being Tebowed out of the playoffs, the Steelers tendered Wallace a $2.74 million offer toward next season. That required any other team interested in signing him as a restricted free agent to pay him what he seeks, plus forfeit a first-round pick. Even then, the Steelers could — and vowed they would — match.

Not one team bit by the Friday deadline, despite many forecasts to the contrary.

Wallace now has until June 15 to sign that tender. If he doesn't, the Steelers can slash it to $638,000. That's when the holdout likely turns from threat to reality. And if that happens, it could cut into training camp and the season.

Quite the quandary, huh?


Remember, these are the Steelers. They tend not to sit at any given table without holding the full deck.

If Wallace holds out past the 10th game of the coming season, he loses his right to test unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2013. It gets pushed back a year.

Even if Wallace shows up and spends his fall eyeing that Fitz-sized payday next summer, he's no lock to leave. The Steelers can apply the franchise tag for 2013, though it could cost more than $10 million.

Either way, Steelers win. They get what should be the two peak seasons of Wallace's career, given that he's 25 and his game is speed-based. Plus, they get him without going overboard on long-term guaranteed money.

Maybe that's what's has Wallace and agent Bus Cook posturing, assuming they are.

Neither Wallace nor Cook has been quoted about any of this, and neither is taking calls from the media. The only feedback so far was Wallace's March 24 tweet — “don't believe everything u hear!” — regarding the Fitzgerald comparison.

Still, actions speak loudest. The Steelers have been in voluntary workouts for a couple weeks, and Wallace has yet to show. Neither has he verbalized any protest, aside from that tweet, about how his stance is being depicted.

Whatever Wallace and Cook might be up to, they'd be wise to call it off.

For one, Wallace wasn't even the best receiver on the Steelers last season. That's not me talking. That's the Steelers' players who voted Antonio Brown the team MVP. Wallace did lead the Steelers with 72 catches, 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns, but only 29 of those catches came in the second half. And he bombed in the playoff loss at Denver, with three catches for 26 yards and two critical drops.

Sure, Ben Roethlisberger's bum ankle was a factor in the decline. So was the double-coverage. But Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and the rest of the bona fide elite find a way.

If Wallace thinks he's in their class, he's dreaming.

If he thinks he can shake down the Rooneys, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin, he's outright delusional.

Look, I hope the Steelers keep Wallace. And I don't doubt that they'd like to. As Colbert repeated Monday, “We want Mike to be here for the long haul. He knows that, we know that, and hopefully at some point we can get that done.”

Sounds reasonable. Ask Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons if the Steelers put their money where their mouths were last summer.

But Wallace and Cook need to knock off the silliness.

So, Colts on the clock yet?

Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at dkovacevic@tribweb.com.

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