Not often do the Pittsburgh Steelers lose good players just as they enter the prime of their careers, but that is exactly what is going to happen with Mike Wallace.
This is only one potential offer and it is already higher than what the Steelers offered Wallace last season. Considering how many moves the team may have to make to just get under the salary cap, the Steelers will not be able to afford Wallace.
That leaves the Steelers with a gaping hole at wide receiver.
Regardless of how you felt about Wallace’s performance over the last year and a half, he was still the best playmaker on the Steelers and he is still one of the best deep threats in the entire league.
So how do the Steelers replace one of the fastest players in the league? They don’t.
You can’t teach speed and the odds of the Steelers finding a player with comparable talent who can produce like Wallace right away is impossible, but one recently released veteran could help ease the pain.
Steve Breaston is just the type of player that the Steelers should bring in to help ease the loss of Wallace.
Breaston does not have the speed or the raw talent of Wallace, but he has had a productive career and he just so happens to be very familiar with Todd Haley’s offense.
Haley coached Breaston in Arizona and Kansas City where Breaston put up some solid numbers over the years.
In just his second season in the league, Breaston put up a career-high 77 receptions and 1,006 yards while playing in Haley’s offense as he helped the Cardinals to a Super Bowl appearance.
Breaston would follow Haley to Kansas City in 2011 where he had 61 receptions for 785 yards. By comparison, he only had seven receptions for 74 yards under Romeo Crennel last season. Reuniting with Haley may be a shot in the arm to the career of Breaston.
If he were to sign with the Steelers, Breaston wouldn’t fill Wallace’s role as an outside receiver, but he would help replace his production.
The Steelers would likely start Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders on the outside, meaning that Breaston could fill in as the slot receiver.
Breaston still has the capability of getting open over the middle of the field and is enough of a threat—along with Heath Miller—to draw attention in the center of the field to open up space for the outside receivers.
As nice as it would be, the Steelers just are not going to be able to find an affordable receiving option in free agency who can replace Wallace’s ability to stretch the field, so they should look for the next best thing—an affordable receiver who can help replace Wallace’s receptions.
Excluding his rookie season and last year, Breaston has averaged 60 receptions a season, which is just above the 59 receptions per season that Wallace has averaged for his career.
Breaston has also averaged 805 yards and approximately two touchdowns per season while Wallace has put up 1,010 yards and eight touchdowns per year.
While Breaston cannot put up the same types of yards and touchdowns per season that Wallace has, he will help replace some of that production.
More importantly, Breaston will not cost the Steelers $60 million over five years. In fact, after such a down season last year, he should be quite affordable. The fact that he is a native of Pittsburgh should help as well.
There is also the Todd Haley factor.
Breaston told Danny Parkins of 610 Sports Kansas City that he would be interested in rejoining Haley in Pittsburgh.
“If I’m blessed to be back home and go with coach Haley and help contribute to win games then I’m fine with it,” Breaston said.
Breaston’s agent David Graves reiterated this sentiment to Colin Dunlap of 97-7 The Fan Pittsburgh (via KDKA).
“He is currently exploring all his options and we can’t really comment further on the situation. I can say that there is some mutual interest in joining several teams at this time and the Steelers are one of those teams. Steve doesn’t want to be a distraction at this point to any potential situations and we aren’t interested in commenting further.”
Distraction or not, Breaston would be a fine addition to the Steelers.
Not only would he help replace some receptions, but his ability to play the slot would allow Sanders to shift outside and would be a second veteran presence besides Jerricho Cotchery.
With four quality receivers, the Steelers would still need to invest a high draft pick in a future No. 1 receiver, but the presence of a player with the skills of Breaston would decrease the need for a rookie receiver to step and be a major contributor right away.
There no single option that the Steelers could add this season—via free agency or the draft—to replace what Wallace brought to the team, but Steve Breaston could certainly be part of the equation and would be an ideal move in the right direction.