Steelers' Wallace: Great play leads to big deal
Mike Wallace's immediate goal is to win the Super Bowl, and he wants to do it in Pittsburgh. His ultimate goal is to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he wants to go in as a Steeler.
But while the big-play receiver is focused on getting the Steelers (2-3) back into playoff contention, he understands that if a player misses his window of opportunity to cash in, it's gone forever.
“At the end of the day, it's always about business. You have to think about that. It's our job. It's a no-brainer,” Wallace told the Tribune-Review on Monday. “It's understood that you have to do the best you can because you want to get the most you can out of the years that you have. You don't have that long.”
That's why the 26-year-old Wallace held out during training camp, and why he will be disappointed if the Steelers retain him next season by designating him as their franchise player instead of giving him a long-term contract.
“Right now, that's so far away — we've still got three or four months left in this season, and I'm just trying to get through this,” Wallace said. “Whatever happens after February, happens after February.”
Wallace never reported to training camp in August, holding out to make his point that he deserves to be paid commensurate with his production.
“I was never trying to be a rebel,” said Wallace, whose production — four TD catches in five games — hasn't been hurt by his layoff. “It just was a situation I was facing that I had to deal with. I would most definitely have loved to be here with my teammates.”
Wallace realizes the only way to be paid like an elite player is to produce like one, and the statistic that matters most to the Steelers is wins.
“You're playing to get to the Super Bowl. If I look at it like I'm playing for a contract, I don't think I'll do well. It will be too much on me, I'll be trying too hard,” he said. “I'm looking at it as we're just trying to win ball games, and I'm just trying to do what I can do to get my team to the playoffs and Super Bowl.”
But, he added, “Everybody thinks about their job and, when it comes down to it, you've always got to think about the money aspect of it. But I don't want to approach it that way.”
Wallace hasn't stated a dollar amount he's seeking, but he is not believed to be asking for Larry Fitzgerald-like money; the former Pitt star has a $120 million, eight-year contract with Arizona that guarantees him $50 million.
The Steelers' policy is not to negotiate or discuss contracts during the season.
“Definitely, I'd rather stay here,” Wallace said. “I've been saying the whole time I've never wanted to leave here. … I've not been with another team, but I doubt if the chemistry is going to be the same anywhere else as it is here.”
Wallace also is aware of the 20 Pro Football Hall of Famers the Steelers have produced. He wouldn't mind joining that group.
His production in his first three seasons — 3,206 yards, an 18.75 yards-per-catch average and 24 touchdowns — matches or surpasses that of a number of Hall of Famers. Only Bob Hayes tops him in all three categories.
“I've got a ways to go but, one day, I want to get me one of those gold jackets,” Wallace said. “I've got to keep scoring touchdowns, and I've got to keep making plays. If I can do that, I'll get what I want to get. It's not about money; it's about being the best you can be.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.