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Colbert: Steelers will not talk without Wallace in camp

| Thursday, July 26, 2012, 12:06 p.m.
Chaz Palla I Tribune-Reivew
General manager Kevin Colbert isn’t dropping any hints about whether any of the Steelers’ nearly two dozen free agents will return in 2014, saying there is still much shaking out to occur around the NFL before the start of free agency March 11.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert watches the team Thursday during the first practice at St. Vincent College. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert watches the team's first practice Thursday at St. Vincent College. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

The Steelers' practice Thursday was closed to the public but open to wide receiver Mike Wallace, as long as he ended his one-day holdout and signed his tender offer.

He didn't. So, on a rare day at St. Vincent College in which the Steelers practiced without spectators, they also worked without their big-play wide receiver.

General manager Kevin Colbert emphasized the team won't budge from its long-standing position of not negotiating with a player when he is out of camp.

“Every negotiation is unique, you put your best foot forward and hope to come to an agreement, and it takes two parties to reach an agreement,” Colbert said. “Obviously, we're not at that stage, and we've chosen to not progress with negotiations at this point.”

He added, “That's been the Steelers' policy forever.”

In the past, players such as Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Mike Merriweather and, more recently, Hines Ward held out. The Steelers refused to change their way of doing business for any player, even Merriweather, their 1987 MVP who ended up holding out for the entire 1988 season and never played for them again. Ward signed a new deal in 2005 only after ending his holdout.

This situation is unique because it is the first time a restricted free agent held out before Steelers camp began. As a result, the Steelers insist they will negotiate a long-term deal only if Wallace reports and signs his $2.742 million tender. And they're not guaranteeing to match the last offer made to Wallace in advance of camp.

“We'll have to address any new negotiations if we get to that point,” Colbert said.

Colbert has continued to talk with Wallace and agent Bus Cook, and Steelers negotiator Omar Khan is talking with Cook. Should Wallace sign the tender and report, any new deal that is worked out would circumvent the tender, so his income for this season would not necessarily be limited to that tender offer.

However, these negotiations have been difficult in part because the Steelers don't know what Wallace they might be getting — the motivated receiver who began last season with three consecutive 100-yard games or the visibly less happy player who had only one more game of more than 82 yards the rest of the season.

“We're moving on. … Him not being here, really, we've got to focus on what we can control, and we can't control that,” Colbert said.

Wallace cannot be fined for holding out because he is not under contract.

With Wallace absent, Emmanuel Sanders will get more practice reps at the X receiver slot — the position usually filled by a team's best deep receiving threat. Antonio Brown might also see some practice time there.

“You can't focus on who isn't here because you lose track of what you're supposed to be doing,” Colbert said.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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