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Steelers WR Wallace out, future uncertain

| Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 5:10 p.m.
Christopher Horner
If he signs his contract tender and reports to camp, Steelers receiver Mike Wallace won't be allowed to play in preseason games, per the NFL labor agreement. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Mike Wallace spent the Steelers' final practice of the season Friday pacing the sidelines with a tender hip/hamstring injury that will keep him out of Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field.

“It's more like my butt that's hurting, but (team physicians) said it's a hamstring,” Wallace said. “It's about the same as it was on game day (last weekend).

Wallace said he injured himself early in the first quarter of the Steelers' 13-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He continued to play, but the hamstring tightened up after the game.

Wallace, who missed all of training camp while embroiled in a contract dispute, acknowledged it is possible the Bengals game may have been his last with the Steelers.

The veteran receiver is an unrestricted free agent after the season.

The Steelers could place the franchise tag on Wallace, but the cost will be high for a team that will be more than $10 million over the salary cap next season.

“I definitely don't want to go out like that,” Wallace said. “I really want to end on a high note.

“I've got big plans no matter the situation. I have big plans for myself and my family. Hopefully everything will go in a positive manner.”

Wallace said he would consider returning to Pittsburgh if his agent can work out a deal with general manager Kevin Colbert.

“It's the team I've been on my whole career,” said Wallace, who has 64 receptions for 836 yards and eight touchdowns this season. “I don't know anything else, so I love playing here.

“Obviously this season didn't go where I wanted it to go. I'm happy with the start of my career, and I feel like I'm on the path to doing some great things.”

Wallace's departure would leave the Steelers with Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders as expected starting receivers next season. Tight end Heath Miller who leads the team with 71 catches but will miss the season finale after undergoing knee surgery.

“It'll definitely be different not having Mike,” Sanders said. “We've all played as a group for so long, but at the end of the day we knew this time was going to come.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com.

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