Wide receiver reflects on 2012 season

January 1, 2013
Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace hauls in a touchdown pass in front of San Diego Chargers inside linebacker Takeo Spikes during Pittsburgh’s 34-24 loss to San Diego in December. Wallace will become an unrestricted free agent in March. - Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – Mike Wallace admits his attitude during the Steelers’ recently completed 2012 season probably wasn’t what it should have been.

But the 2011 Pro Bowl wideout also wouldn’t change how he handled his contract negotiations, a situation that included a lengthy holdout in training camp when he refused to sign the team’s tender offer.

“I’m not in a habit of going back and saying what should have happened. I did what I did. I can’t change that,” said Wallace, who will become an unrestricted free agent March 12 when the 2013 NFL season officially begins.

“I definitely wish things would have been better. But I wouldn’t change anything I did.”

Wallace was a restricted free agent following the 2011 season and the Steelers placed a $2.7 million tender offer on him. Had he signed with another team, the Steelers would have had the right to match the deal or receive a first-round draft pick in return.

When Wallace refused to sign the tender and did not report to training camp, the Steelers signed fellow wide receiver Antonio Brown to a six-year, $42-million contract extension.

Wallace did not report and sign his contract until just before the 2012 season began, a situation that made it difficult for him to pick up new coordinator Todd Haley’s offense.

Wallace sat out the Steelers’ season-ending 24-10 win over Cleveland with a hip injury, the first game he’s missed in his career. He admits that he struggled with the transition from Bruce Arians’ vertical passing attack to the one used by Haley, which included more short throws in an effort to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

“My role has always been a certain role since I’ve been here, and it changed this year,” Wallace said. “I wasn’t in training camp, so I didn’t really know how the role was going to change. It did change. You’ve got to adjust to it.”

While his touchdown total of eight was the same number he scored in 2011, Wallace saw his receptions dip from 72 to 64 and his yards per catch fall to 13.1 – still a healthy average, but well below his career mark of 17.2.

Wallace’s frustration was apparent to his teammates.

“We wasted a lot of energy worrying about things that were out of our control, pointing a finger here, pointing a finger there,” said Brown, while not specifically naming Wallace. “People mad here. People mad there. And as a team collectively you can’t have that.”

Wallace said he learned from the situation.

“Next year, I’ll definitely have a positive attitude going into it and make the best of the situation and make it a good fit for me, even if I feel it’s not,” he said.

But is Haley’s ball-control offense a good fit for Wallace?

Head coach Mike Tomlin said Monday he thinks it is. Wallace isn’t quite so sure.

“It’s a decent fit. I think it could be (a good fit) if I have a better mindset going into it, knowing my role exactly going into it before the season now having been in it a whole year, I think it could be a good fit,” Wallace said. “We just have to make some adjustments in this offense. When you’ve never been in it and you just come into it, it’s a little different. Hopefully, if I’m here, I’ll figure it out.”

Despite everything that occurred in 2012, Wallace would still like to return to Pittsburgh.

“This is where I’ve been at the whole time. I don’t know anything else. I’d love to be here,” Wallace said. “I love my teammates, love my coaches, so it could definitely be the best situation for me, but we’ll know in two or three months.

“I just want to be a in good situation, a good fit for myself, no matter if it’s here or somewhere else. I just want to be in a good situation. Money is not really the problem.”

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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