- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Pittsburgh Steelers were never expected to make a run at retaining wide receiver Mike Wallace. Now, after seeing the details for Dwayne Bowe's deal, everyone can pretty much agree there's no chance of Pittsburgh holding onto Wallace once he hits free agency next Tuesday.
The cap-strapped Steelers can't afford the market value for Wallace, which was established when Bowe signed a contract Monday that averages $12 million over the first three years. Wallace will probably end up in the $11 million to $13 million per year range.
The receiver-needy Dolphins remain the popular destination for Wallace, and ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter tweeted Monday that Wallace is on the Dolphins' radar. Some speculate the Browns could be in the mix for Wallace, but I don't see the Browns spending free-agency dollars on that position.
I understand the perception that the Steelers really won't miss Wallace. Pittsburgh didn't falter after losing Santonio Holmes. Wallace wasn't a good fit in Todd Haley's quick-hitting passing attack. And Wallace didn't win over the Steelers with last season's unfocused effort.
Still, the Steelers are going to have a big-play void without Wallace, who had four catches over 40 yards in Haley's offense last season. Here is what Wallace has meant to the Steelers offense (numbers come courtesy of Jon Stewart from ESPN Stats & Information): No player in the NFL has more 40-yard receptions since 2009 than Wallace (27) and his 16 touchdown catches of 40 yards or longer are also an NFL-high over that span. Since 2009, no other Steelers receiver has more than five 40-yard catches (Hines Ward, who retired before last season) or two 40-yard touchdown catches (Antonio Brown).
By next week, we'll find out where Wallace lands. But we'll likely have to wait until the end of the season to see how much his loss affected Pittsburgh.