Some veterans to play final game for Steelers

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 28, 2012 at 8:16 pm •  Published: December 28, 2012

PITTSBURGH (AP) — For the first time since he was taken in the third round in the 2009 draft, Mike Wallace will miss a regular-season game for the Steelers.

It might well be the first of many games Pittsburgh plays without the speedster receiver going forward.

An injury in his left hip and hamstring area will prevent Wallace from playing in the Steelers' season finale Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. He will be an unrestricted free agent, leaving his status with the team for beyond this season in question.

Wallace isn't the only veteran who might have attended his final practice as a Steelers player Friday. On the heels of a non-winning season and with salary-cap issues upcoming, Pittsburgh (7-8) has some decisions to make on several longtime stalwarts who have been tenured contributors to championship teams.

Wallace, Casey Hampton, Rashard Mendenhall, Max Starks, James Harrison, Larry Foote and Charlie Batch have a combined 59 years of service for the Steelers, 12 starts in Super Bowls for the team and 11 championship rings.

There is reason to believe the game against Cleveland (5-10) will be the final one for many in that group as part of the organization.

"I don't know who's going to be out the door or who's going to be re-signed, but it's always a business first," Foote said. "From a selfish standpoint on defense, we were No. 1 in the league — so bring us all back, keep us all. But I never know what's their plans and (general manager) Kevin Colbert can run a team better than I can."

Starks, who will start his 96th game at tackle for the Steelers on Sunday, and Hampton, the team's nose tackle for the past 12 seasons, both hinted this week they could envision playing elsewhere.

The Steelers' most recent two second-round draft picks — and rookies of the year — are tackles. That doesn't bode well for Starks, who rebounded from injury each of the past two years to become a reliable starter for the Steelers by the time the season ended.

"I think the writing's on the wall, so to speak," Starks said. "I had a great run — nine years here. I've gotten to be a part of three Super Bowl teams and got a chance to grasp two of those Lombardis, so it's an excellent career. If I have to move on, this will always be home for me."

Hines Ward wept at his retirement press conference in March when he said he couldn't envision himself in another uniform. The gregarious Hampton chuckled this week at that notion — maintaining that he'd while he'd like to stay a Steeler, he'd play elsewhere if he had to.

A 35-year-old pending free agent, there's no guarantee the team will make a strong effort to keep Hampton.

Like Hampton and Starks, Foote said on Friday that he doesn't want to be a backup. But unlike Starks and Hampton, Foote can attest to the grass not always being greener.

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