No fanbase ever wants to hear it. Whatever the context and regardless of the circumstance that led to this moment, no diehard, faithful group of supporters ever wants to acknowledge the need to part ways with a superstar.
But for the Pittsburgh Steelers, that appears to be where the Mike Wallace saga is heading. And to be completely honest, it needs to be done for the sake of both parties.
Per Ed Bouchette of The Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
Now he is an unrestricted free agent and it appears Wallace and the Steelers will part ways in March. They gave him their best offer last year, reportedly averaging $10 million annually over five years, and he turned it down.
They stopped negotiating with Wallace once camp started and he did not show up, and quickly turned their attention to Brown. He signed a five-year contract for $42.5 million that included an $8.5 million signing bonus.
Essentially, Brown's contract signaled the end of Wallace's career in Pittsburgh.
Not all superstars are created equal, at least not in the eyes of the city. Even in Pittsburgh, where toughness comes before godliness, fans form a special connection with skill position guys, face guys, touchdown-scoring guys. And Wallace was all of those.
That said, the writing has been on the wall of this marriage for quite some time. Per Bouchette's article, members of the Steelers' organization were "turned off" by Wallace's obstinacy this offseason. And the season he had on the heels of that ignominy—one where he posted a career-low 13.1 yards per catch—only served to further sever those ties.
You'd need to be some certain kind of crazy to insinuate that Mike Wallace is easily replaceable. He has speed that's normally reserved for video games and a great ball skills once a pass is in the air.
But the Steelers have another guy who is capable of stretching the football field—the guy Bouchette said "signaled the end of Wallace's career in Pittsburgh." A guy by the name of Antonio Brown.
On top of that, they also have a system (and a quarterback) that's not particularly wide receiver dependent. The Steelers aren't exactly Donovan McNabb's Eagles (R.I.P. Todd Pinkston and James Thrash), but they have proven capable of moving the ball with lackluster pass-catchers. So long as Ben Roethlisberger is back there keeping broken plays alive, receivers will find a way to get open and he will find a way to get them the football.
On top of that, they have a whole draft of young, potentially talented receivers to help assuage the loss (should they choose to). Bouchette recommended Cal receiver Keenan Allen and Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson, but players like Justin Hunter, Tavon Austin and DeAndre Hopkins could all be options in the Steel City.
For Wallace, leaving Pittsburgh will put behind him an ugly saga that seriously tarnished his off-field reputation. By all indications, he isn't a bad guy—and avarice is common at this position—so its not like he's sullied goods. Some team will pay him what he wants to be paid, and that team will be getting one of the premier downfield threats in football.
By that token, Wallace skipping town is a move that could very well benefit both parties. Something that, if done properly, could make two franchises and one wide receiver better off in one felt swoop.
It always hurts to say goodbye, but in this rare case, it opens the door to a brighter tomorrow.