- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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General manager Kevin Colbert reiterated the Steelers are standing firm on a couple of issues: the team won't negotiate with wide receiver Mike Wallace until he signs his restricted free-agent tender and the team isn't interested in trading him.
"Mike’s not available," Colbert told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, via sportsradiointerviews.com. "We have as big a need for a big-play receiver as anybody. We want him to be here and Mike wants to be here long term. So he’s not available.”
Although Wallace remains a holdout, the Steelers hold all the cards in this situation. Wallace can miss the first 10 games and still become eligible for unrestricted free agency by being on the roster for the last six weeks. But the Steelers could keep Wallace next year by placing the franchise tag on him, or at least use the threat of the tag.
It's true that the tag is prohibitive because Pittsburgh will be tight against the salary cap next season. But the Steelers could get Wallace for the 2012 and 2013 seasons for a total of $14 million ($2.7 million RFA tender plus $11 million franchise tag), which is a decent value for a No. 1 wide receiver for two years. Just compare that figure to the $26 million guaranteed that the Buccaneers are paying Vincent Jackson over two seasons.
Of course, Wallace could get a bigger payday if he reports to training camp.
"Mike knows where things stand," Colbert said. "The next step for him really is to report and to sign his tender, and until that happens, there won’t be anything else. And if that happens, nobody knows where it will go from there. So that’s where it is and has been, and hopefully it comes to an end sooner rather than later because it will be good for us, but it will also be good for Mike.”
The signing of wide receiver Antonio Brown to a long-term deal was seen as a message to Wallace. But Colbert said Brown's contract was "unrelated" to Wallace's situation.
“We had actually talked with Antonio’s representatives as far back as the combine [in February] because he was entering his third year, and we said, ‘Look, listen, during the summer, sometimes during training camp we take care of guys entering the third year of their contract, but we do it in an order,'" Colbert said. "We try to take care of guys that are going to be unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents, and then we always move into that next group, which Antonio is in. That had been in the works for awhile and really the two are unrelated.”