Another year, another training camp at St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. It’s fitting that the Pittsburgh Steelers would choose stability and continuity for their training camp logistics. That’s been their modus operandi since forever from the top of the franchise on down. Speaking of the front office, Kevin Colbert continues to prove himself as one of the best personnel and business executives in the league. With the departure of several star veterans however, there will be extra attention on Colbert to see if he’s restocked the shelves adequately enough to fill the void in productivity and leadership left by the departure of guys like Hines Ward and James Farrior. The more immediate thing on the mind of Steeler Nation is the absence of Mike Wallace from camp. As you’ll hear from Colbert, it doesn’t look like much progress is being made on the negotiating front either.
Colbert joined 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh with Vinny and Cook to talk about Mike Wallace and his contract dispute with the Steelers, the talent and versatility of the new-look offensive line, Antonio Brown’s new contract and increasing role on the team, the challenges of losing leaders like Hines Ward and James Farrior, the rehab progress of Rashard Mendenhall, whether the Steelers would ever consider trading Mike Wallace and if the organization might still offer him a long-term contract this summer.
On Mike Wallace’s no-show from Steelers training camp:
“Yeah there’s really no contact. Mike knows where things stand. The next step for him really is to report and to sign his tender, and until that happens, there won’t be anything else. And if that happens, nobody knows where it will go from there. So that’s where it is and has been, and hopefully it comes to an end sooner rather than later because it will be good for us, but it will also be good for Mike.”
If Antonio Brown’s contract was related to the Mike Wallace contract situation:
“We had actually talked with Antonio’s representatives as far back as the Combine because he was entering his third year, and we said, ‘look, listen, during the summer, sometimes during training camp we take care of guys entering the third year of their contract, but we do it in an order.’ We try to take care of guys that are going to be unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents, and then we always move into that next group which Antonio is in. That had been in the works for awhile and really the two are unrelated.”
On the state of the offensive line:
“Not only the talent, but what we really like is the versatility. There’s probably five guys in that group now that could be centers, which is important because you always have to have…on game days, we’re only able to dress seven players. So we look and we have a mix-and-match capability with a lot of those guys. So right now, they’re healthy which is a great thing. But we’re more excited about the versatility. The talent, we don’t know where it will be as it continues to go. Everything always looks good in camp because you’re going against yourself, but you get that first test in the preseason and you see what it looks like against somebody else. Maybe you’ll be excited, maybe you won’t. But right now we like the flexibility and the versatility that the group offers us.”
On the challenges of this offseason not only with the salary cap but also having to part ways with leaders like Hines Ward and James Farrior:
“It wasn’t unexpected because even at this point last year, we could look at our group and where we were from a cap standpoint, and where we were from an age standpoint, and we realized that this was the last go round with that group. So it was something we were prepared for and preparing for dating back to last year. When you lose the leadership, it’s a big, big deal, and it’s something you have to go through and we’re going through right now. And it’s always fun to see who steps up and replaces the Hines Wards and James Farriors. It’s not something that happens instantly, it’s not something we can appoint or elect. The players will do that over these next five weeks, and then they’ll elect captains and that will be the start. But who’s going to show up in the locker room before or after a tough loss to keep them together? We don’t know yet.”
On the progress of Rashard Mendenhall in his return from injury:
“I don’t think they put a ‘you’re going to be ready on this day.’ I think they leave that for not the imagination, but they leave that to progress as they feel he can. Running in a straight line was one accomplishment, now he’s starting to make some cuts which is another thing. But to make those cuts at full speed is a whole other deal. So we won’t know until he actually does that in a game, but you have to gradually build that. So it’s one little step at a time. But you don’t want to put on a date on that, and we’d rather they didn’t, because you want your medical staff to be very confident and of course you need the player to have that confidence. We saw Baron Batch early on in the mini-camps and OTAs, and he wasn’t quite confident in that knee, but as the mini-camp went on, you saw him doing things that show he looks like he’s 100 percent. And so far in the training camp, it’s been the same way. But the ACLs are different with the running backs as opposed to the big guys because they have to make that explosive cut. And it’s a thing where the trainers say you should be able to do it, and the player has to have the confidence to do it.”
Whether the Steelers would consider trading Mike Wallace were someone to make an attractive offer:
“No, Mike’s not available. We have as big a need for a big-play receiver as anybody. We want him to be here and Mike wants to be here long term. So he’s not available.”
If there’s an opportunity still to sign Wallace to a long term deal this summer:
“Really the only thing we know is the opportunity to sign a tender. Beyond that, there’s absolutely nothing in the plans, nothing in the works. If he signs the tender and gets to camp, he’ll be here and we’ll progress from that point if we get to that point.”