Mike Wallace: Steelers WR's Reported Return Highlights Success of Team's Methods

Mike StangerCorrespondent IAugust 23, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23: Mike Wallace #17 celebrates after Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers scored a second quarter touchdown against the New York Jets during the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette reported that sources expect Pittsburgh Steelers holdout wide receiver Mike Wallace to return to the team this weekend. For many Steelers fans, this comes as refreshingly good news, especially in the wake of the rash of injuries to both the running back and linebacker positions.

Underlying his return is the general opinion from Steeler Nation regarding his holdout, and the team's stance on Wallace's contract. Some may say that the Steelers are being practical for not giving in to his demands; others may call them cheap.

Regardless of how one sees the entire Wallace situation, what took place during the past several months was a textbook example of how the Steelers do business.

Although one might not think kindly of how the Steelers operate, the results of the "Steelers' Way" is indisputably successful.

For decades, the Steelers have not given in to the temptation of making a splash in the headlines by signing a big-named free agent or overpaying a current player on the roster. Furthermore, they have shown temperance and patience in finding head coaches.

In other words, the Steelers have created a model that works and is the envy of the league.

But what exactly is that model? It is a system that is based on three basic pillars.


No Coaching Carousels

Over a 40-year span, the Pittsburgh Steelers have had three head coaches.

Think about that.

By way of comparison, the Oakland Raiders have had three head coaches over the past three years. It's no coincidence that the Steelers have been hugely successful while the Raiders are the league's laughingstock.

Indeed, while other owners exhibit clinical ADHD symptoms when dealing with the hiring and firing of coaches, the Steelers keep a steady hand.

Would owners like Dan Snyder or the late Al Davis have kept Chuck Noll around after a 1-13 head-coaching debut?

Could you see either of them remaining calm when Bill Cowher struggled a bit in the late '90s?

How many owners would eschew an ego-driven celebrity head coach over an unheard of young defensive coordinator?

Answers: No. No. Not many.

Of course, this is by design. The Steelers' management, specifically the Rooneys, know that continuity and stability breeds success.

Their formula of picking young, defensive-minded individuals as head coaches is brilliant in that it brings in a tabula rasa, who is allowed to grow within a stable system.

And speaking of stability, how many teams would keep a retired head coach's staff around for the new head coach, as what happened when Cowher retired? 

Again, not many. But what's considered fool's alchemy for other teams is pure (black and) gold for the Steelers.


Beware the Free Agent

Anyone that follows the Steelers laughs in amusement when he reads a headline like Reggie Bush a Steeler? or Mario Williams to Pittsburgh?


Because those scenarios are nothing more than fodder for people who have no clue how the Steelers run things.

While many teams throw Monopoly-type money around two seconds into free agency, the Steelers sit back and grab an undervalued veteran free agent or do nothing at all, like this year.

In the past, the Steelers have found gems like Kevin Greene or Ryan Clark, players no longer considered viable by their former teams.

Or the Steelers steal a player like Jerome Bettis for a song from the clueless St. Louis Rams who consider Bettis trouble in the locker room, yet feel that Lawrence Phillips would make a great fit.

One of the best examples I can think of to illustrate the point occurred before the 2002 season. Back then, the New York Jets had an organizational man-crush on Sam Cowart, a one-time Pro Bowler who was injured most of '01.

Remember him? Of course you don't.

Well, the Jets signed their man Cowart to a free-agent contract, which led to the departure of one of their own, a gentleman named James Farrior.

Within a few years, Cowart was out of football, carrying on with his life's work. Meanwhile, Farrior went on to be a runner-up Defensive Player of the Year in '04 and a mainstay on defense for three Steelers Super Bowl teams

There is a reason why the Jets haven't been to the Super Bowl since the Johnson presidency (Lyndon B., not Andrew). 


Buy Low, Sell High

Which brings us back to Wallace. Some people may think that the Steelers should pay Wallace the money because he runs a great nine route. Perhaps the Raiders are impressed, but the Steelers are more level-headed.

You see, they put the first-round tender on Wallace for a reason.

If someone had bit, the Steelers could match or would get a first-round pick if they refused. No other team felt that Wallace was worth losing a first-rounder over, so the Steelers found out Wallace's value.

The choice was painfully simple for Wallace: Either sign the tender which would pay him a couple million this season or remain at home, which would decrease his value next year.

It looks like Wallace has finally come to his senses. 

Conversely, the Steelers recently signed Antonio Brown to a team-friendly extension. They understood that Brown's long-term potential has great upswing.

At his current rate of play, Brown would be too costly in free agency. But the Steelers realized that Brown brings more to the table than Wallace does and thereby has greater value.

Furthermore, the Steelers don't get overly sentimental when dealing with their overpriced, long-in-the-tooth veteran free agents. Alan Faneca and Joey Porter begrudgingly found that out.

And very rarely does such a decision come back to haunt the Steelers. Only in two instances, Hardy Nickerson and Rod Woodson, could the team be considered guilty of overplaying its hand.

However, it can be argued in both instances that the Steelers made a good decision at the time. Woodson was no longer a cornerback, and the Steelers already had an All-Pro strong safety in Carnell Lake. And Nickerson was replaced by Levon Kirkland, a Pro-Bowler in his own right.

Yes, the Steelers know how to run an organization. You would think that the rest of the league might take notice and follow suit.

Fortunately for Steelers fans, most of the league won't.

It almost makes you feel sorry for Raiders fans.



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