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Mark Madden

Madden: Wallace wants to be a star, not a Steeler


Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012 11:15 pm

Mark Madden Times Sports Correspondent | 0 comments

I don't worship at the altar of Hines Ward. I think he's a self-serving phony. One person when the microphone is on, another when it's off.

But I'll say this for Ward: He knew how to be a Steeler. He knew the value of the brand, of the logo, and how it added to everything he did. Ward knew the standard, and usually lived up to it. He was a Steeler.

Mike Wallace, not so much.

Wallace wants to be a star, not a Steeler. He doesn't want to earn, he wants to get paid.

If Ward was a big influence on the Steelers' youthful receivers -- the "Young Money Crew" -- it's not evident with Wallace, who disappeared during the second half of last season. Wallace didn't top 100 yards worth of catches in a game after week 7, falling short of 60 yards five times. He had three catches for 26 yards in the playoff loss at Denver.

Wallace is a restricted free agent, tied to the Steelers by a first-round tender worth $2.7 million in 2012. The Steelers can match any offer. If they decline, they get a first-round pick as compensation.

Wallace will be a Steeler next year. He guaranteed that by seeking Larry Fitzgerald money. Wallace wants $15 million per year. No team will pay near that, let alone surrender a first-round pick on top of it.

Wallace isn't Fitzgerald. Wallace has speed. Fitzgerald has everything.

Some say Wallace had a bad second half of the season because he was so tightly covered, tying that theory to Antonio Brown's increased numbers. That begs the question: Is a mere decoy worth big loot?

Wallace will get big loot next off-season. Barring a franchise tag, Wallace's free agency becomes unrestricted. He still won't get Fitzgerald money, but he might get Vincent Jackson money: five years, $55.55 million. Dan Rooney would sooner put that kind of dough through a paper shredder than give it to someone who touches the ball four or five times per game.

With Wallace a lame duck, what level of exertion can be expected from him this coming season? Depends how smart he is. With unrestricted free agency pending, every catch hikes future paychecks. Effort is an investment in himself, not the Steelers.

Wallace, sadly, seems to personify a new breed of Steeler. He hasn't won anything, yet displays inflated ego and arrogance.

Put Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert in that group. Within minutes of the playoff loss at Denver, each was on Twitter to profanely urge followers to listen to a certain rapper. F-bombs, N-words, etc.

When Pouncey was criticized, he called detractors "losers" and said, "U wish u had my life." No, I don't. Not if your brain comes with it.

The Steelers should ban players from Twitter. Some do a nice job with it. Many don't. At any rate, what's the upside?

When Wallace's money demands got questioned, he tweeted, "I love when haters hate." What a great all-purpose defense. Jerry Sandusky should try it.

The Steelers cut Ward, James Farrior and Aaron Smith. They won't be missed as players. Ward and Farrior are washed up, Smith too brittle.

But considering the antics and attitudes of those left behind, the Steelers should definitely worry about a leadership void.

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).