Wallace A Holdout

LATROBE – Wait all summer for reporting day, and then spend that day talking about those who in fact didn't report. It never fails, and this year Mike Wallace was at the epicenter of conversation as the Steelers reported to St. Vincent College for 2012 training camp.

Wallace is officially a holdout. The fourth-year wide receiver hasn't signed his $2.7 million one-year tender and can't practice yet because he wants to sign a bigger, fatter long-term extension.

The Steelers want the same thing, but a camp holdout here normally dictates a slowdown if not a complete stoppage of talks.

Tomlin was asked if that front-office strategy will be employed with Wallace.

"I'm less concerned about negotiations from a coach's standpoint," Tomlin said. "I want the player here. I'm focused on the guys that are here and working, so I won't focus on him until he gets here."

Tomlin hasn't spoken with Wallace in approximately 10 to 14 days, and acted as if he could go another 10 to 14 without any trouble.

"It's unfortunate for him," Tomlin said. "One thing that experience has taught me is that this is bigger than all of us. It's bigger than Mike. It's bigger than me. So I mean that when I say it's unfortunate for him that he's not here. This group that is the Pittsburgh Steelers will continue to push on. We'll focus our energies on readying the people who are here, and when he shows up, he shows up."

Wallace's oldest and best friend on the team, Keenan Lewis, thinks that time will come soon.

"He's a football player. He loves playing the game," said Lewis. "I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to sit out. We worked all off-season. He's in shape. He's ready to go."

Lewis said the two worked out "extremely hard" together back home in New Orleans every day during the off-season, and that Lewis filled

Wallace in on the new offense as best he could. Lewis said he's been in daily contact with his friend since then.

"That's my brother," Lewis said. "He asked me questions about how the new system fit in, how he's playing a role. I told him a couple things, a couple tips to make sure he's ready to go.

"He just wants to be here. He's anxious to get here. He's ready to work. I think he's in the best shape that he's ever been in, as far as conditioning and running routes and stuff like that."

There are also half a dozen Steelers who showed up for camp but have been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and will miss varying degrees of practice time.

The six are OLBs James Harrison (knee) and Jason Worilds (wrist), OT Max Starks (knee), S Damon Cromartie-Smith (shoulder), RB Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and NT Casey Hampton (knee).

Harrison missed most of the spring practice season with a bothersome knee, but Tomlin doesn't seem worried because Harrison "had a good off-season. He worked extremely hard."

Worilds underwent wrist surgery last spring and also missed most of the spring practice season. Tomlin said the team won't add another outside linebacker, but that "guys like Chris Carter and others, man, I'm sure they would be more than happy to assume additional work so they can have an opportunity to show what they're capable of."

Starks, Mendenhall and Hampton, of course, underwent off-season surgery to repair torn ACLs. Tomlin said Hampton "is going to be at least a week or two, but we'll see."

Tomlin also said he will be optimistic about the players' time off with injury, but of course cautious because once a player comes off the PUP list he can't return, and a re-injury would open the door to that player spending the rest of the season on injured reserve.

If a player remains on the PUP list through camp and into the regular season, he can't be activated for at least six games.

Cromartie-Smith, a third-team safety, had shoulder surgery in the off-season, but Tomlin said he's "extremely close" to returning. Mendenhall has made enthusiastic comments about his progress, and Tomlin agreed with his assessments.

As for Starks, Tomlin pointed out that the left tackle was close enough to full health to be re-signed 10 days ago. So, Tomlin was asked, who will start at left tackle in Thursday's walk-through practice?

"I don't know. We'll see tomorrow," Tomlin said. "I'm sure you'll be there. Huh? How about it?"

Perhaps he'd be better off asking Wallace.


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