LATROBE, Pa. (AP) – For only the second time since 1997, Pittsburgh Steelers opened training camp without Hines Ward.
But as notable as the recently retired Ward’s absence was on Wednesday, it was a no-show by another receiver that stole the show on the annual reporting day at St. Vincent College.
Restricted free agent Mike Wallace‘s training-camp holdout became official when he did not arrive by 3 p.m. to move into his dorm room and take part in coach Mike Tomlin’s conditioning test.
Wallace, a starter in the Pro Bowl last season, was offered a one-year, $2.7 million tender by Pittsburgh. He has not signed it and did not take part in any of the Steelers’ offseason workouts or minicamp.
Neither Wallace nor his agent, Bus Cook, had publicly stated whether he intended to report for the start of camp.
“Obviously, we have a desire for him to be here,” Tomlin said. “We want him to be part of this thing, both short-term and long-term. We’ve been in negotiations with him. He’s not here today. That’s unfortunate for him.”
Wallace is the biggest name to hold out on the Steelers since Ward, who was unhappy with his contract in 2005. Ward ended up missing two weeks before reporting on the day of the team’s first preseason game. He was signed to a four-year extension before the opener.
The Steelers are hoping Wallace won’t miss two weeks. He has been tightlipped throughout the offseason, and various reports Tuesday and Wednesday made it sound as if a long-term deal was imminent.
But while teammates, one by one, trickled in, Wallace never made an appearance carrying pillows, clothing and luggage into the Rooney Hall dormitory.
“He’s the lead dog,” veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. “So, when he comes in, I’m pretty sure there’ll be a lot of time set aside for him to get up to speed. We’re not worried about that. Whenever Mike gets here, he’ll be ready to roll.”
Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis was a high school teammate of Wallace’s, and the two worked out “every day” over the summer along with other players in the New Orleans area.
Lewis proclaimed Wallace “in the best shape he’s ever been in,” and predicted he would eventually arrive at camp.
“I’m pretty sure he’ll be here,” Lewis said. “He’s a football player, he loves playing the game. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to sit out.”