What if I told you that restricted free-agent wide receiver Mike Wallace not only trained last week with speed and conditioning guru Tom Shaw at ESPN's Wide World of Sports at Disney, he bunked in Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor's nearby home and drove Taylor's car?

How many people would welcome someone into their home while they're away at training camp? Taylor and Wallace are good teammates more than they are best friends, so Taylor clearly took one for the team.

"Mike was supposed to be here three weeks ago," said Shaw, who has trained many high-profile NFL players and has known Taylor since he was a teenager. "The only way to get him here was to have him stay in Ike's house and drive Ike's car."

The Steelers know all about Shaw, who became regarded as one of the early stars in his profession for his work with Deion Sanders, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Shaw was the conditioning coach when the New England Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years.

Shaw has been a guest at the Steelers' practice facility, and he is on speaking terms with coach Mike Tomlin. The Steelers are well aware that Taylor, who works every offseason with Shaw and made his home in Orlando, Fla., as a result, didn't miss a game because of injury in his first nine NFL seasons.

Taylor should receive a finder's fee when Wallace receives his new contract. Make no mistake, it's a matter of when, not if, Wallace – who told a Disney official last week he will play in the final preseason game – signs with the Steelers.

Taylor has spoken with Wallace throughout the offseason, in person and on the phone, with Wallace explaining his side of the negotiations while Taylor presented the Steelers' side.

The New Orleans natives got together in June when Taylor was in town to host his annual football camp.

"It's a lot of frustration with Mike, seeing a lot of guys getting signed to big contracts," Taylor said. "Mike feels like he outperformed his last contract. He's telling me, 'I miss being around you boys. But I want my (money).' "

Taylor, who signed a four-year extension last year making him the highest-paid cornerback in Steelers history, capitalized on his close relationship with chairman emeritus Dan Rooney to become a buffer between Wallace and the Steelers.

Check out Taylor's avatar picture on his Twitter page featuring him and Rooney striking one of Taylor's favorite poses, side-by-side with arms folded across their chests. It's a must-see, and a clear indicator that Taylor, who once fell asleep in Rooney's office after a practice, shares a special bond with the Steelers' owner.

"I told him one time that his pants (were) too high," Taylor said about Rooney on his weekly show on TribLive Radio two weeks ago. "So he had to come down on his pants, and he got a whole lot better over the course of years."

Given the relationship between Rooney and Taylor, does anyone believe that Wallace worked out with Taylor's personal trainer while the team is in training camp without the Steelers knowing about it?

"Mike is my guy," Taylor said. "Mr. Rooney and the organization, they're my people, so I see it on both sides."

With the recent departures of James Farrior, Hines Ward and Aaron Smith, Taylor is taking charge. He's become a mentor to cornerbacks Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown. Allen was a guest in Taylor's home when Allen trained with Shaw this summer, as was wide receiver Antonio Brown, who tussled with Taylor at the end of Sunday's practice but considers him a friend.

Taylor's direct involvement in Wallace's contract negotiations – while unusual, to say the least – will be worth it when Wallace and the Steelers agree to terms.

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached
at jharris@tribweb.com.

Posted in Ike Taylor, Pittsburgh Steelers, Sports Talk Radio

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