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Steelers Free Agency 2012: Pittsburgh Gambling With Mike Wallace

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace is scheduled to be a restricted free agent and the Steelers have until Monday March 5 to tender him with the franchise tag. The Steelers aren't expected to, however, because they simply don't see to be able to afford it at a guaranteed salary of $9.5 million, which is the projected franchise number for wide receivers, even with all of the restructuring. The most likely scenario is that the Steelers will designate Wallace with the highest restricted free agent tender, which would require a team to give up their first round pick if Wallace agrees to sign with them.

According to Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, that's a very calculated risk for the Steelers.

Teams that would have had to give up first- and third-round picks in the past to sign Wallace only lose a first-round pick if they lure him away from the Steelers. That change in the collective bargaining agreement - and cost - has stirred speculation that Wallace will be one of the more sought-after free agents come March 13 at 4 p.m., with the line for his services forming behind San Francisco. Or New England. Or Cincinnati. Or Baltimore.

As Brown notes, however, it will still be unlikely that a team will be willing to hand over their first-round pick and pay the Pro-Bowl wide receiver a hefty contract, but the possibility is still there. The Steelers are really opening themselves up to potentially losing one of their biggest playmakers.

For more on the Steelers offseason, check out this SB Nation Pittsburgh StoryStream. For more on the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.