Mike Wallace returned to the Steelers on Tuesday. Finally!
Wallace showed up at the Steelers offices and signed the one-year, $2.7 million tender offer that’s been on the table for months.
After a long holdout that apparently gained him nothing, Wallace was back on the sidelines at Steelers’ practice. Although in accordance to the new collective bargaining agreement, he isn’t allowed to practice with the team yet.
“I couldn’t even go on the field. That was a little different,” said Wallace. “I am here now, learning the plays. I get to at least see it. At home I couldn’t even see it. At least getting to watch those guys I am getting a couple of mental reps.”
Even though he wasn’t allowed to practice, Wallace was happy to be back among his teammates.
“My teammates need me,” Wallace said when asked why he decided to report after missing nearly all of training camp and the preseason. “It’s time to get ready for the season. I felt like it was time to go. I’m ready to roll. I’m here. That’s really all that matters to me.”
Wallace has been working out, and he’s in very good physical condition. However, being in good shape is not the same as being in good football shape.
“As far as conditioning-wise we have two weeks until the game,” said Wallace. “I have been working out, doing really good conditioning so that is not going to be a problem. Nothing is like getting in football shape. It’s a little different. The first couple of days I might be a little more tired than the rest of the guys, not because I am not in shape but because it’s different with the pads on. I will be ready when it’s time to go on Sunday night against Denver.”
Both Wallace and offensive coordinator Todd Haley believe that Wallace can be ready in time for the season opener against Denver.
One thing that Wallace’s absence did do was answer the question of whether Antonio Brown could thrive without Mike Wallace to draw double teams. Brown answered that loud and clear, as he dominated in the preseason, despite being the Steelers #1 receiving option.
Now that Wallace is back, Brown should become even more dangerous. And Brown’s emergence should help reduce the number of double teams that teams are able to throw at Mike Wallace. Defensive coordinators will have to pick their poison.
Wallace isn’t eligible to play in the Steelers’ final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, so he’ll likely make his debut against the Broncos on September 9th.