By doing so, the Steelers leave themselves vulnerable to a team prying one of the game's best deep threats away. A team could front-load a contract offer, something the salary cap-strapped Steelers could have trouble matching, to Wallace and acquire him by giving a first-round pick as compensation.
This is a risky move, but this was really the only choice for the Steelers. A first-round tender costs Pittsburgh only $2.7 million while a franchise tag would have been $9.4 million. The Steelers are barely under the cap right now.
Most assume -- and the Steelers hope -- no team will think Wallace is worth a big-money contract and a first-round pick. And they could be right.
But the two teams to watch out for are the New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers. Both have picks at the bottom of the first round and both could be desperate enough for a young, fast receiver that they could be willing to pursue Wallace.
In the end, I don't believe Wallace is going anywhere. The solid free-agent market for wide receivers works in the Steelers' favor. If a team really wants a wide receiver, it could sign Marques Colston or Vincent Jackson without having to give up a first-round pick.
Still, by not putting the franchise tag on Wallace, the Steelers will have to sweat this one out. The Steelers are willingly parting ways with Hines Ward, but they don't want to lose this wide receiver.