First Down: Clock ticking on Mike Wallace’s time in Pittsburgh


That sound you just heard was a backhanded slap across the face of Mike Wallace.

In a stunning revelation Friday, Steelers management signed Antonio Brown, and not the holdout, to a five-year, $42.5 million extension, effectively drawing a line in the sand with its top receiver from 2011. Pittsburgh, cash-strapped prior to the agreement, does not plan to offer Wallace a long-term extension, forcing the wideout into a number of different scenarios. He could sign his one-year $2.7 million tender and arrive at Steelers training camp immediately, refuse to scribble his name on the dotted line and sit out the year or, as the Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac presented Saturday, agree to a sign and trade resolution (UPDATE: The Post-Gazette reports Wallace could be had for as little as a fourth-round pick. Crazy cheap.), an earth-shaking move that would surely send ripple effects through the fantasy community.

Pittsburgh's handling of the situation is puzzling. Wallace is a nuclear downfield weapon who's compiled consecutive spectacular seasons. He's notched a ridiculous 18.7 yards per catch since debuting in 2009. Losing him would be a significant blow, especially when considering how sketchy the Steelers' ground game is.

But the organization has made its choice. Clearly it covets Brown more.

So should fantasy owners.

The All-Rodney Dangerfield selection, coming off a career-best 69-catch, 1,108-yard season, appears primed for a monster campaign. Possibly without Wallace in tow, attention to No. 84's side will undoubtedly increase, but so will the targets. Last year, he averaged 7.7 per game, the 14th-most in the league. With hobo Todd Haley now calling the shots, the Steelers, traditionally a smash-mouth, ball-control oriented club, may transform into a pass-happy machine, potentially launching Brown's fantasy worth into the stratosphere. At his current 64.1 average draft position in Yahoo! leagues (WR27), he is the steal of the century. If the cards fall right, he could easily deliver a top-12 season among WRs. Emmanuel Sanders, who would likely fill Wallace's massive void, would also receive a major value boost, making him an intriguing eleventh hour selection in drafts.

As for Wallace, a departure from the Steel City could be a blessing or a curse. If shipped to Houston, for example, he would likely play second-fiddle to Andre Johnson in a largely conservative offensive scheme. Other receiver needy teams Cleveland, St. Louis and Miami aren't exactly favorable landing spots. Brandon Weeden, Sam Bradford and Matt Moore aren't the second coming of Kosar, Warner and Marino. However, a change of address to an air-minded environment with a QB comparable or better than Ben Roethlisberger (e.g. San Diego) could stabilize or increase his overall value. (UPDATE #2: Rumors are swirling Miami, Dallas and Indy are possible frontrunners for Wallace's services. The Colts, who should throw a ton this year considering their defensive issues, would be an excellent destination. Obviously so would Dallas. Perhaps Daddy Warbucks, Jerry Jones, is shopping for a Dez Bryant contingency plan or just a kick-ass third receiver. Tony Romo is looking better and better by the second.)

At this point, it's all speculation. Until the dust settles, Wallace is a very risky selection at his current price point. The 10th wide receiver off the board in average Yahoo! drafts (31.2 overall) should be circumvented for finer bargains Julio Jones (34.2 Y! ADP), Steve Smith (35.6), Jeremy Maclin (43.6) and Percy Harvin (49.1).

Sound the sirens.

Wallace Watch 2012 is officially underway.

(UPDATE #3: Pittsburgh GM Kevin Colbert dispelled the trade rumors late Saturday pointedly telling Ed Werder, "Mike Wallace is not available." Given the back-stabbing Wallace received Friday it still seems unlikely he'll grin, bear and sign the tender anytime soon. Similar to the Maurice Jones-Drew saga, this stalemate probably won't end well.)

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