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Pittsburgh Steelers: Wallace, Mendenhall Exits Could Help Fix Team Chemistry

Mike Wallace has his eyes on a bigger payday than he can get in Pittsburgh.
Mike Wallace has his eyes on a bigger payday than he can get in Pittsburgh.Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Mike BatistaContributor IFebruary 24, 2013

It's quite likely that unrestricted free agents Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall have played their last games for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The departure of those two selfish players could help calm the troubled waters of the Steelers' locker room.

That doesn't mean the Steelers will be holding hands and singing "Kumbaya" if and when Wallace and Mendenhall sign with other teams. Losing them will be a big blow to their offense.

In terms of team chemistry, however, ridding themselves of those two attitudes would be a step in the right direction as the Steelers try to rebound from a disappointing 8-8 season.

The Steelers' internal strife has been under the microscope since Feb. 17, when anonymous quotes from a teammate calling out LaMarr Woodley appeared in Ron Cook's column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

This teammate questioned Woodley's commitment to staying in shape. Woodley had just four sacks in 2012 after posting no fewer than nine every season between 2008 and 2011.

Those anonymous comments set the dominoes in motion.

The next day on NFL Network (via Pro Football Talk), Ryan Clark expressed his disappointment that a teammate would air the Steelers' dirty laundry in public.

On Wednesday, Antonio Brown labeled the Steelers' locker room as "fractured" on ESPN's SportsCenter (via Pro Football Talk).

Without mentioning names, Brown said some players put individual goals ahead of team goals. He couldn't have been talking about Wallace, could he?

Wallace turned down a five-year, $50 million contract offer from the Steelers last year, sat out training camp and started the season rusty.

During the season, Wallace said he sometimes loses focus when he's not getting enough balls thrown his way, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

That doesn't sound like a team-first guy, but at least Wallace showed up for games.

Mendenhall was suspended for not reporting to Heinz Field after being told he wasn't activated for the Steelers' Dec. 9 game against the San Diego Chargers.

The Steelers, who are about $14 million over the salary cap according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, can pretty much forget about keeping Wallace. He's going to get big bucks somewhere else.

Mendenhall, on the other hand, might have hurt his market value with his behavior. Perhaps the Steelers could try to keep him by holding that game-day incident over his head and giving him a low-ball offer.

They'd be better off starting fresh and drafting a running back and wide receiver who can better contribute to a winning environment.

Hines Ward did that, and he was the latest to chime in on the Steelers' off-the-field drama.

Ward told the NFL Network on Friday, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that the Steelers' locker room was in "total disarray."

Guys start finger-pointing, calling out other guys. That's not the Steeler way. We always had a rule: We are a band of brothers. We've always collectively kept everything in-house. But there was no finger-pointing and calling out each other. That's total disarray, a locker room in disarray.

Ward conveniently forgot that in 2009 he expressed disappointment that Ben Roethlisberger sat out a game at Baltimore with a concussion. Ward told NBC at the time, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that he had played with concussions and lied to doctors about symptoms

At least Ward didn't cloak himself in anonymity like Woodley's critic.

Ward hinted Friday that there wouldn't be so much turmoil in the Steelers' locker room if they hadn't shed veteran leaders such as himself, James Farrior and Aaron Smith.

The Steelers don't need more veteran leaders as much as they need more wins. Would all this sniping be going on if the Steelers had at least made the playoffs in 2012? Conflict is inevitable in locker rooms with 53 men who need at least a little bit of selfishness to get where they are in life.

The problem is that Wallace and Mendenhall are among the Steelers who have been too selfish.

Good riddance to both.

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