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Antonio Brown says it’s a bit awkward that he got a contract and Mike Wallace didn’t

Antonio-Brown-Mike-Wallace-SteelersMike Wallace is one of the best free agents in the NFL this offseason, and there are very few people who feel that he will sign a new deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. As you know, Wallace held out last year before reporting to camp. He is looking for top dollar, and the Steelers may not be willing to give it to him.

Pittsburgh was, however, willing to throw a large chunk of cash at receiver Antonio Brown last season, signing him to a five-year extension worth $42.5 million. Brown, who has become a more reliable target for Ben Roethlisberger than Wallace, said the fact that he received a contract and Wallace didn’t created a bit of tension last season.

“Some bit of awkwardness,” Brown told 98.7 ESPN in New York. “You know, a guy who has been there longer than I and definitely wanting a deal, but you gotta not dwell on that and that kind of situation prohibits bad blood to a team where guys are there for themselves, and not buy into the team aspects and could definitely cause a drama within a team.”

As we have learned since the start of the offseason, the Steelers had their fair share of locker room issues last year. While it would probably be an exaggeration to say that Brown getting a contract over Wallace contributed to those problems, I’m sure it didn’t help.

That being said, football is a business. The Steelers obviously feel that Brown is reliable and has a bright future, even if his numbers were down in 2012 compared to 2011. Wallace is 26 and Brown is 24. Both are above-average receivers, so Pittsburgh would have to commit quite a bit of its bankroll to keep both. At this point, that seems unlikely.

Thanks to Sports Radio Interviews for the transcription

Mike Wallace: I lose focus sometimes, it’s tough to stay positive

Mike Wallace has had an up-and-down season with the Pittsburgh Steelers this year that has largely been a disappointment. Fresh off an offseason where he held out and missed much of training camp, the fourth-year receiver has been unable to establish any type of consistency. The problem, he says, is his inability to remain focused when the offense isn’t getting him the ball.

“When I don’t get the ball for a certain amount of time, I lose focus sometimes,” he told the Pittsburgh Tribune. “It hurts me when it’s time for me to make a play. The toughest thing is staying positive through three quarters because you’re not going to get the ball every time. You have to be ready to deliver when it comes your way. That’s been the biggest thing I’ve had to learn this year.”

Ben Roethlisberger’s injury has not helped Wallace’s production, but he said the lack of balls coming his way is also due to a change in philosophy.

“We spread the ball around more than we did in the past,” Wallace said. “So it’s not one or two people with yards. Nobody’s numbers just jump out. If there’s been a play that I haven’t made this year, it’s been in the second or third quarter when I haven’t been getting too many passes … and I’m losing focus. I get a little frustrated, and that’s the main thing.”

It’s nice that Wallace is willing to be honest, but that attitude is precisely what separates the great receivers from the rest of the pack in the NFL. Larry Fitzgerald has had one of the worst quarterback situations in the league over the past several seasons, but he seems to maintain focus and continue producing. We know Roethlisberger has shown a serious desire to keep Wallace in Pittsburgh in the past, but its looking more and more like he won’t get his way this offseason.

Helmet smack to Pro Football Talk

Ben Roethlisberger says he’s been begging Mike Wallace daily to stay with Steelers

Mike Wallace is a restricted free agent but the Steelers likely won’t be able to match an offer he receives. If the play-making wide receiver leaves Pittsburgh, it won’t be because the team didn’t show him love. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger says he’s been begging Wallace daily to stay with the team.

“Nervous is not the word,” Big Ben replied when asked about the thought of Wallace leaving during an interview on WDVE Wednesday. “[I'm] scared to death. I communicate with Mike, I wake up every day and I’m like, ‘Mike, please don’t go anywhere. I’m begging you.’ I’m going to say right now over the radio ‘Don’t go anywhere Mike.’

“Mike is too good of a player, but Mike’s an even better person. He’s a great teammate, he’s a great guy, and he’s someone that we need to have here. I’ll be disappointed if he goes somewhere. I’ve got a good feeling that he’s not. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve just got a feeling he’s not going to go anywhere, but I’m still begging every day and praying that he doesn’t go anywhere.”

Unfortunately for Ben, it’s expected that Wallace will leave the Steelers. Pittsburgh has even less of a chance to retain him if the report that he’s looking for a contract greater than Larry Fitzgerald’s is true.

Below is audio from Roethlisberger’s interview on WDVE. He spends most of it talking about Hines Ward.

Thanks to Steelers Depot for the story and transcription.

Ravens’ Lardarius Webb: Antonio Brown is Better than Mike Wallace

If Mike Wallace is widely considered to be one of the best receivers in the NFL, then Antonio Brown must be right up there with Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, if you believe Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb. Even though Wallace is one of the fastest players in the game and an unbelievable deep threat, Webb is more impressed by Wallace’s teammate, Antonio Brown.

“Every time somebody asks me [a question], they’re always talking about Mike Wallace,” Webb said on Wednesday when asked about having to cover Wallace. “But they have a guy No. 84 in Antonio Brown who is better than 17 [Wallace] in all aspects of the game. He’s a great returner, a great wide receiver.”

Through eight games, Wallace has 43 catches, 800 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Brown, on the other hand, is having a more modest season and has caught 34 passes for 431 yards and one touchdown.  Both receivers could turn out to be a huge part of the Pittsburgh offense for the coming years, but Wallace is obviously the superior talent at this point.  Unless you ask Webb.

As ESPN’s Jamison Hensley noted, Webb’s praise of Brown is likely due to a past experience; Webb was burned by Brown for a 58-yard pass last season in the playoffs.

Brown is emerging as a legitimate option for Ben Roethlisberger, but I wouldn’t go grabbing him ahead of Wallace in fantasy leagues next season.  In fact, I wouldn’t be drafting him ahead of about 30 other guys unless he absolutely tears it up over the final eight games.