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Steelers still eyeing long-term deal with Wallace

| Friday, June 15, 2012, 7:14 p.m.
Steelers reciever Mike Wallace against the Broncos during AFC playoff action Jan. 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said he does not expect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to change his swashbuckling style of play, even if one of his favorite targets' status remains an unknown.

On Friday, the Steelers did not reduce the one-year, $2.7 million offer they had made to restricted free agent Mike Wallace.

The team had until midnight to reduce that offer by more than $2 million to $577,055, but they never seriously considered exercising that option.

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger's approach — and the amount of punishment he exposes himself to while extending plays — has been under scrutiny since the Steelers made a change at offensive coordinator, replacing Bruce Arians with Todd Haley.

“Ben is who he is, and that's OK,” Colbert said Friday.

“Ben has always looked to create big plays, and that's OK because he's won games for us doing that.”

The Steelers may have to win games for a significant part of this season without two established starters, and neither is Wallace.

Running back Rashard Mendenhall and nose tackle Casey Hampton are recovering from serious knee injuries, and each has started working out again to various degrees.

Mendenhall, who has averaged more than 1,000 rushing yards in his three seasons as a starter, tore the ACL in his right knee Jan. 1 in Cleveland.

Hampton suffered the same injury to his left knee a week later in a playoff loss in Denver.

“My guess is they'll open the season on PUP (the physically unable to perform list),” Colbert said.

“You've got to remember both of those injuries happened late in the year.”

Mendenhall and Hampton, each of whom is in the final year of his contract, wouldn't be eligible to play until after the Steelers' sixth game if they start the season on the PUP list.

Equally unknown is what will happen with Wallace, who has averaged more than 1,000 receiving yards in his first three seasons and wants to be among the highest-paid receivers in the NFL.

Wallace skipped offseason practices because of his unhappiness over the one-year contract the Steelers offered in March.

While the team could have reduced the offer, Colbert said, “That was never our intention.”

Several of Wallace's teammates, including Roethlisberger, have said they expect him to report on time to training camp, which starts July 25.

When asked whether he shares that optimism, Colbert said, “All I can say is we're in negotiations, and our goal has always been to do a long-term deal.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com.

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