Steelers hope to re-sign Mike Wallace

Updated: February 23, 2012, 8:58 PM ET
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert sounds determined to keep big-play wide receiver Mike Wallace, one of the top restricted free agents in the NFL.

"We want Mike to finish his career with the Steelers," Colbert told reporters Thursday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. "We think he's only scratched the surface of what he can do."

But Colbert wouldn't reveal how the salary cap-strapped Steelers plan on keeping him. If the Steelers place a first-round tender on the 25-year-old Wallace, another team can pry him away by extending an offer that the Steelers can't match. The New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals have been mentioned as teams that would be interested in Wallace.

Pittsburgh would be less vulnerable if it uses the franchise tag on Wallace, but that would cost the Steelers $9.6 million for this season. The Steelers saved $8 million in cap space Thursday by restructuring quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's contract, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Pittsburgh was an estimated $8 million over the cap before reworking Roethlisberger's contract and will have to trim even more space in order to use the franchise tag on Wallace.

Colbert said the Steelers would use the first-round tender at the very least and mentioned that the franchise tag remains a possibility.

"Having a great player like Mike Wallace is not a dilemma," Colbert said. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure that Mike Wallace remains a Pittsburgh Steeler and I think that's Mike's belief as well. Usually when you have two parties that share the same goal, it's easier to achieve that goal."

Wallace, taken by the Steelers in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft, acknowledged on Wednesday that he might not be playing for Pittsburgh this season.

"(Pittsburgh is) where I would like to be, but we all know that it is a business and you have certain things you have to handle," Wallace told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "So if I have to go elsewhere, you know Pittsburgh will always be in my heart, but I have to do what I have to do."

Wallace had 1,193 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2011 and was selected to his first Pro Bowl. He's led the Steelers in receiving touchdowns the past two seasons after tying for the team lead as a rookie.

This is the second time in six months Roethlisberger has reworked the eight-year, $102 million deal he signed in 2008. He deferred some of his salary last August to make sure the Steelers could get under the $120.4 million cap last season. He was scheduled to make $11.6 million in 2012 but the new deal will save the Steelers several million next season.

Linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons and cornerback Ike Taylor -- all of whom signed new contracts last summer -- have already agreed to restructured deals.

Jamison Hensley covers the AFC North for ESPN.com. Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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