The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed wide receiver Antonio Brown to a five-year extension reportedly worth $42.5 million. In coming to an agreement with the budding superstar, the Black and Gold have assured that their 2011 MVP will remain in the Steel City, barring injury, through at least the 2017 season.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert voiced his pleasure with the agreement, stating, “He has played a major role in our success over the past two years and we are thrilled he will be a Steeler for many years to come.”
With Mike Wallace currently not reporting to training camp due to circumstances regarding a potential long-term contract, Steelers fans concerned about the status of their wideouts can breathe a sigh of relief. The impending "Antonio Brown contract situation" of next year's offseason is a storyline that can now be scrapped.
That could be bad news for the statistical "Mr. YPC."
First, and most obviously, the long-term signing of Brown marks a half-decade relationship with a fantastic all-around receiver who only promises to get better as he shifts his focus exclusively to developing as a wide out.
From his first NFL touch, a momentous kickoff return on a reverse for a key touchdown against the Titans in 2010, to his record-setting season-long performance for total yards in 2011, Brown has rewarded the faith of fans and management as arguably the best receiver on the depth chart.
The next time he steps on the field, he will line up against the Philadelphia Eagles. This time, he will be a set-in-stone Steeler for years to come, largely for showcasing the same skills in the regular season that he dominated the Eagles with last preseason. The game against the team's cross-state rival was a sort of coming-out party for a receiver who would use the upcoming campaign as validation of his supreme talents.
Who will start across from Antonio Brown on opening day, barring injury?
For many, even as early as last summer's exhibitions, the potential in Brown was not lost.
The second huge statement made by this signing is surely directed at Mike Wallace. Wallace has the option to sign a $2.7 million tender offered to him by the team, but his displeasure with those numbers has resulted in a holdout.
Now, with fans awaiting good news regarding the signing of a stud wide receiver, that joyous result is realized, only with a different name.
The Brown signing will certainly make it more difficult, though not impossible, for the Black and Gold to make an arrangement with Wallace. Certainly, the lack of progress in negotiations can be tied to Wallace's unwillingness to participate with the team. For Brown, a local favorite, his dedication is now being rewarded.
For those who argue that the signing is not a message to Wallace—that his studying of the playbook at home is enough for now—I'd simply state that the nonsensical rationale behind No. 17's stubbornness (and it is just that) is coming to roost.
The Steelers are a class organization that has historically rewarded loyalty and, above all else, dedication. While I've predicted multiple times that Wallace will line up on opening weekend with the team, there is certainly no guarantee.
What is that saying that comes to mind? Something about reaping and sewing...or is it making beds and resting in them...or turnabout?
As last season progressed, many fans argued that Brown surpassed Wallace as the better overall receiver, viewing the big-play receiver as a one-trick pony, and citing his need to develop in the intermediate passing game.
Though few truly perceive Wallace as an actual one-trick pony, nobody doubts that his ability to get open down the field far exceeds his talent as a route-runner and intermediate pass catcher. In this way, it can easily be argued that Brown is the superior product, able to run decisive routes and surely capable of a similar chemistry with Big Ben.
Did the Steelers just sign their best receiver? No matter where your opinion lies, the team's message to Mike should be loud and clear:
Show up or ship out!
And, with the Wallace deal still pending, could there be the potential for another receiver on the depth chart to replace him?
While many fans fret Wallace's absence, others are refusing to sweat. Many believe that Wallace’s refusal to play will simply be the gateway for Emmanuel Sanders to finally meet his potential as last year’s Antonio Brown…revisited!
Also, let's not forget that the Steelers boast an experienced, underrated and blue-collar possession receiver in Jericho Cotchery. Having a stud veteran and a deceptively fast youngster behind Brown makes the stakes even higher for Wallace.
Odds are still in his favor to return, even if the issue just boils down to the common sense. After all, whether or not a longer-term deal is ultimately agreed on, the weekly losses for not participating equal $158,823.00. That figure is based off of the current tendered offer, money lost by the receiver if he is not playing.
In other words, the longer Wallace holds out or the lengthier the time spent in negotiations, the greater the risk that No. 17 could lose out on well over a quarter million dollars every two weeks.
Within a month, he would lose out on his entire team pay from 2011, and then some. You would think worst case scenario would not be considered a bad one, but apparently Wallace wants to maintain the "all of nothing" stance a little longer. Does he have the good sense to settle for one year if necessary? Certainly, there's no guarantee that Wallace will think monetarily. His fate in 2012 surely still lies in long-term negotiating.
For the 2012 Steelers, the news is great, but the plot does indeed thicken!!!