Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 6/27/12
1. When will Mike Wallace report to training camp?
This story is getting old real fast for Steelers fans. Mike Wallace still hasn’t signed his one-year tender, which would pay him $2.742 million in non-guaranteed base salary. Wallace’s teammates are optimistic that he’ll be there sooner rather than later however.
According to cornerback Ike Taylor, it’s only a matter of time before Wallace reports to camp. "He's going to be there (training camp)," Taylor told Albert Buford of The Times-Picayune on Saturday. "They'll get it done. When you talk about that kind of money, it's not an overnight type of deal. By the end of the day, I think for sure he's going to get that thing done. Both sides are working together, so that's a good thing."
Steelers fans can only hope that Taylor is right. Wallace has stated that he wants a long-term deal done, and the Steelers have maintained publicly throughout that they would like to lock their best receiver up long-term as well. Naturally, the holdup is over money. I suspect Wallace wants to be paid like an elite, top-five type receiver in the league.
The problem for the Steelers is that statistically, Wallace just isn’t there yet. Wallace had less receiving yards and touchdowns last season than he did in 2010, and he really faded off towards the end of the year after a hot start. In my opinion, Wallace is going to go down as one of the very best deep threats of his generation, and I don’t think a whole lot of people would disagree with me. Even if he hasn’t produced quite like that top-five guy yet, Wallace is likely to only get better with time.
In other words, the Steelers should just quit being stingy and pay up. Without a doubt, they’re going to have to make some seriously tough decisions regarding who to resign and who to let go next offseason. Casey Hampton, Rashard Mendenhall, Larry Foote, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, and Issac Redman all become free agents in 2013. Even if he’s the most expensive of the lot, Wallace is not the one to let go.
2. Can Mike Adams protect Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side?
If the Mike Wallace contract situation is resolved before the season starts, which I suspect it will be, then this definitely becomes the number one question mark for the Steelers. When Mike Adams was drafted, I suspected that Marcus Gilbert would still make the transition to left tackle for at least one season, and Adams would wait a year behind Willie Colon at right tackle. The reason I thought this is because Gilbert was told to prepare to take over at left tackle next season prior to the draft, but clearly the Steelers had a change of plans.
So I was surprised to hear that the Steelers intend to give Adams the first crack at the starting left tackle job heading into training camp. Colon will be moved to left guard. As a Steelers fan, this worries me. If there is any player that could really benefit from sitting on the bench for a season, I thought it was Mike Adams.
Adams has the potential to be a premier left tackle one day, but the key word here is potential. Despite his athletic prowess, Adams was never a premier left tackle at Ohio State, just a good one. Adams has really good feet and an impressive frame, but he lacks adequate upper body strength; he was only able to bust out 19 reps on the bench press at the combine, a very low number for a tackle. Adams needs to get stronger in order to hold up against bull rushers at the next level, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of time to do so.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Adams will eventually be the best player the Steelers have had at left tackle since Marvel Smith’s prime, but he’s being thrown into the fire awfully early. Adams should at least be an immediate upgrade over what the Steelers had to deal with at left tackle last season, but that’s not saying a whole lot.
The Steelers desperately need to keep Roethlisberger upright more this season so he stays healthy for a playoff run. If he takes as many shots as he did last season, another serious injury is almost inevitable. It’s an oversimplification of course, but in a way, the fate of the Steelers season depends on how quickly Mike Adams can develop.
3. Can Isaac Redman carry the load?
It may sound like blasphemy, but the fact is the Steelers don’t need an amazing running game to win the Super Bowl next season. All they need is a pretty good one, which I think they’re going to have. That’s why this question is number three and not higher. Still, Isaac Redman has extremely limited experience starting and concerns over his ability to adequately fill the shoes of Rashard Mendenhall are valid. So will he be able to?
Let me start off by saying, I love the talent of Rashard Mendenhall. When he gets out in the open field, he’s one of the better backs in football and is a lot of fun to watch. The problem for Mendenhall, however, is in getting out in the open field where he can use the skills that made him a first-round pick in 2008.
Mendenhall’s mediocre statistics are not all his fault; he has never had the advantage of running behind the type of run blocking offensive line that the great Steelers running backs of the past had. Still, for a bigger back Mendenhall’s lack of power is a little disappointing.
He’s got great speed and his moves in the open field are second to none, but he dances too much in the backfield as opposed to just hitting the hole and finding positive yardage. All too often, Mendenhall gets completely stuffed when he could have just put his head down and picked up a few yards.
These criticisms make Isaac Redman very appealing to Steelers fans. Redman doesn’t have half as much talent as Mendenhall, but he has good vision and power. Unlike the flashier Mendenhall, Redman gets north and south and into the hole quickly.
He’s not going to wow anyone with his speed or his lateral quickness, but his production last season in relief of Mendenhall was very impressive. In an admittedly small sample size, Redman rushed for 479 yards and 3 touchdowns, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Mendenhall, on the other hand, only averaged 4.1 yards per carry.
I’m not ready to write off the career of Mendenhall just yet, he’s way too gifted for that, but it remains to be seen just how much the Steelers running game will actually suffer during his absence. Mendenhall may very well return towards the end of the season, but the Steelers can’t count on it.
Note: If you’re surprised that I didn’t include something about Ben Roethlisberger having to learn a new system under Todd Haley, then let me briefly explain myself. The media has made a lot of this, and some of it has to do with what’s been looked at as clashing personalities between the two.
Let me be clear, Todd Haley is a very good offensive coordinator with a track record for success, and Ben Roethlisberger is an elite quarterback. There’s no substantial evidence that the two can’t coexist and get along, and there’s also no reason to believe that Roethlisberger can’t have his best season yet under Haley.
Bruce Arians gave Roethlisberger a lot of freedom which he certainly enjoyed having, but let’s be honest, the guy wasn’t that great of an offensive coordinator. Todd Haley is an upgrade, and Roethlisberger should only benefit from playing for him.

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