Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How Will Mike Wallace Be Remembered As A Steeler?

Today was the beginning of NFL free agency and just as was expected and one of the first names that was supposed to come off the board was former Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace. I don't know off hand if Wallace was the first player to come off the board but he is going to be one of the highest rewarded players as he signed what is believed to be a five year, $65M deal that is going to make him a very rich man.

There was no way that the Steelers were going be able to afford Wallace and they knew that when they weren't able to work him into a long term contract last offseason. For better or worse that is what happened and he has moved on.

Wallace broke onto the scene with a great first three seasons for the Steelers with back-to-back 1,100+ yard seasons and was one of the most feared deep threats in the entire league. In 2012 his numbers dipped a good bit which was a mix of a new offense with some drops and concentration problems but no matter how bad at got at points in 2012 he still is a top line talent that can change a game on one play. Despite the down year Wallace still led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns, so, yea.

With the bad year coming in the contract year that really set the stages for people to become really angry about Wallace for the results of last season and not being a "Steelers guy." Anyone that can tell me what a "Steelers guy" is can let me know because I still have no idea what that is. Anyways, Wallace was still going to get his money and a lot of people were going to get really angry about it. That is the way sports are. We are all fans and fan is short for fanatic so that really explains a lot.

When it broke and Wallace was 99.99% sure going to be playing football in Miami I sent this tweet out:

That just how it was going to be and that is really what I saw a lot of. It got me thinking of what Wallace's tenure in Pittsburgh was going to be remembered as. Would be as an integral part of an offense that showed some nice flashes or would it be solely on a not so great 2012 season. I saw some on both sides but as my timeline filled up with tweets such as these:

To be honest I have no idea what either of those things mean. This isn't to pick on specific people because I had numerous more of these types of tweets that I was getting as the afternoon went on. These things just as either made up terms such as Steelers heart or just ridiculous as he doesn't try.

I don't really know how you qualify not trying but this is the common theme in a lot of people's mind and it clearly comes from Wallace's 2012 season where he dropped six passes. It might seem like he dropped a lot more passes and it probably seems that way because a few of them were sure touchdown grabs but pretending like he is the only player who drops a football and to label him a player that doesn't try is taking it to an extreme. Look at a guy like Victor Cruz, who has been talked about as one of the best players in the league, but has double (yes twice as many) the drops of Wallace. You want to know who else had more drops than Wallace: Jimmy Graham (13), Calvin Johnson (10), Brandon Marshall (10), A.J. Green (9), and Wes Welker (9) just to name a few. While it is true that all of those guys get more targets the fact remains that the number are very comparable. Cruz dropped 8.4% of his targets while Graham (9.6%), Johnson (5%), Green (5.5%), Marshall (5.2%), Welker (5.2%), and Johnson (5%) were no better than Wallace (5%).

Was Wallace the best in 2012? No. Should he have caught a few more passes? Absolutely. But lets not pretend like dropping passes is equal to not trying or not caring because I would venture to guess that nearly 100% of you would not say that Calvin Johnson is a guy who doesn't try or that Wes Welker doesn't care.

This is just a total guess of mine but I think a lot of people are still a little jaded over Wallace holding out of camp and making somewhat of a fuss about all of this last offseason. I sort of get that sediment but at the same time you have to understand that Wallace wants to get paid. Wallace is a speed guy at the receiver position. He isn't a great route runner so he needs to make his money while he has that straight line, take the top off the defense, speed and that was going to happen this offseason so he had to make it count. I have no problem with that. He performed well for much of his career so far and he deserves to make as much money as he can. I know I sure as hell have never turned down a raise no matter how much of an overpayment I thought it was. Good for Mike, get your money.

Now I say all of this which makes it look like I am saying the Steelers should have resigned him, which I don't think they should have done. There was no way the Steelers were going to be able to get what Wallace wanted and I don't think it would be a smart decision to break the bank for Wallace. That being said the Steelers are really going to miss Wallace. While he wasn't playing his best football last season he was still the guy that the defenses had to focus on. Even when Antonio Brown really took over in the second half of the 2011 season the defenses still had to focus and roll coverages to Wallace because if they didn't it was almost a guaranteed touchdown. The Steelers don't have that anymore. Even though they don't go vertical as much anymore the threat was always there and that is something they will have to replace for next season to keep secondaries honest.

All told I think Wallace is really going to have a bad feeling amongst a lot of Steelers fans from his four years in the Black and Gold. It is a shame that it has to be like that but when it comes down to business decision it is always going to leave one side looking like the bad guy and here it is Wallace. He wanted to make the money and as a receiver he was a little more of a diva that people would like but that shouldn't be what he should be remembered as. He should be remembered as a guy that scored 32 touchdowns and caught over 4,000 yards worth of passes in four years and as Chris Mueller of 93.7 The Fan said:

That is pretty impressive. Wallace is going to be remembered for his one down year and the first three will be much forgotten. That isn't how it should be. Wallace was a really good player for the Steelers in his time and they will miss him. Whether you like it or not.

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