NFL Rumors: Pittsburgh Steelers Must Hold onto Mike Wallace

Thad Novak@@ThadNovakCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 24:  Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs after the catch against the St. Louis Rams during the game on December 24, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Steelers won 27-0.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There will be a slew of big-name wide receivers wearing new uniforms in 2012. Brandon Marshall and Brandon Lloyd are just two of the standout pass-catchers who have already changed teams in the offseason, and among those who might join them is Pittsburgh Steelers star Mike Wallace.

Wallace is a restricted free agent and as noted by CBS Sports, he’s far from a sure bet to stay with the Steelers. The market for wideouts has been a pricey one, and Pittsburgh has always tended to let expensive players walk rather than commit to gargantuan contracts.

In Wallace’s case, though, the Steelers would be better off spending the money while they have the chance. Allowing their leading receiver to walk would cost Pittsburgh dearly in the near future and the 2012 draft is unlikely to offer any help in the short term.

Wallace led the Steelers in catches (72), receiving yards (1,193) and receiving TDs (eight, with nobody else catching more than two). Even more crucially, there’s already one hole in the receiving corps after the team released its all-time leading receiver, Hines Ward.

Emmanuel Sanders—who caught just 22 balls a year ago—is good enough to replace most of Ward’s production, but certainly not to step into Wallace’s leading role. The team could theoretically get lucky and draft another mid-round WR with elite ability (Wallace was a third-round selection), but even then it would take a couple of seasons for such a rookie to get used to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense.

Big Ben is in his prime at age 30, coming off a 4,000-yard season. The Steelers would be foolish to waste a year or more of his best performances rebuilding the receiving corps when they already have a viable No. 1 target in their grasp.