Given the choice between the widely appealing options of taking it or leaving it, Mike Wallace will likely at first leave it, and then take it.

I’m referring, of course, to his contract situation that’s now taken a distinct turn into pro Steelers management territory. If the two sides were rock ‘em sock ‘em robots, Wallace’s head would be bouncing after a haymaker to the jugular. Or, perhaps more accurately, if they were WWE wrestlers, Wallace would be flying off of a steel cage and onto a Spanish announcers table.

That’s because when he officially became a holdout by not reporting to training camp this afternoon, the Steelers took their negotiating ball, and retreated back to their negotiating sandbox where they hogged the bulldozer and all the cool toys, while Wallace is stuck with only a shovel. They’ve cut off negotiations for a long-term deal, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, effectively forcing Wallace to sign his one-year, $2.7 million RFA tender if he wants to play football this year.

Reports last week and as recently as last night indicated that the two sides were closing in on a long-term deal, although significant work still remained. Mike Tomlin is a man of few words, and he needed only nine of them today to summarize this situation from Wallace’s standpoint.

The stage is now set for a lengthy holdout filled with the requisite bickering and belittling. Ho hum, the NFL in August.

And with each passing day Wallace could continue to lose leverage if Antonio Brown impresses in camp and during preseason games after his breakout 1,108-yard season. Wallace will be missed and he’d be difficult to replace in the very unlikely event that he sits out regular-season games, but it can be done. The main knock on him is that he’s a pony who’s mastered only a single trick, and if it’s a speed option that Ben Roethlisberger seeks, Brown can be that guy, with Emmanuel Sanders then sliding into the No. 2 WR role.

Wallace is supremely talented, and if we’re discussing pure speed, he’s difficult to match, and he deserves more than $2.7 million for his services over a season. But maybe not much more, and that’s the problem.

Overall Wallace’s 2011 numbers look great, but they’re inflated by a great first half, that was followed by an OK second half. Wallace had four +100 yard games, and they were all over the first eight games when he averaged 100 yards every week. He then followed that up with a second half when he had five games with 60 yards or less, averaging 56.1 yards. Over the same stretch, Brown averaged 96.7 yards.

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