Free agency has been busy season for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the past two years in a way that it never really had been before. The projected starting lineup for 2023 looks to be made up of about 9 or 10 players added as veterans over that time, including one (Allen Robinson II) via trade, and that doesn’t even factor in signings who have already come and gone like Myles Jack.
One of those new (or relatively new) faces is cornerback Levi Wallace, a sixth-year veteran now heading into year two in Pittsburgh. He spent the first four years of his career with the Buffalo Bills. Appearing on Good Morning Football yesterday, he said it was “kind of eye-opening after being in Buffalo for four years” to go to a new team as he did signing with the Steelers.
“I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed the first season”, he said of last year. “A lot of ups and downs, obviously, a new transition, a new quarterback. Being with Coach [Mike Tomlin] was super dope, just learning about him. We had a lot of fun last year, just getting things back on track towards the end of the season. We’re just trying to build on that coming into the next season. I feel more comfortable in the system, just being around guys, understanding roles, and playing with some really good guys in the league”.
One of those really good guys is Minkah Fitzpatrick, the three-time All-Pro safety, who was college teammates with Wallace at Alabama. As a matter of fact, they may be the only two starting members of the secondary returning from last season with Cameron Sutton, Terrell Edmunds, and Arthur Maulet (and Ahkello Witherspoon) gone.
Still, it remains to be seen precisely what Wallace’s role will be, at the start of the season, by the end, and into the future. He is playing out the final season of a two-year, $8 million contract. Witherspoon was the starter at the beginning of last season, but Wallace ended up taking over and having a career year with four interceptions.
He could return to the starting lineup, but that remains to be seen, even if it is probably the more likely result. The Steelers replaced Sutton with Patrick Peterson in the starting lineup, and they signed Chandon Sullivan as a possible slot defender before parting with Maulet.
And they also drafted Joey Porter Jr. in the second round. They expect to play Porter. But when, where, and how often? Well, the where is the easiest—in Wallace’s spot, unless Peterson is playing inside in the slot.
If Porter locks up a starting job sooner rather than later, than Wallace’s playing time is going to depend upon Peterson’s ability to adjust to playing inside. Unless Wallace himself starts picking up slot capability, but I don’t see that happening.
Not that he is used to anything ever being handed to him. He had to earn a walk-on scholarship his junior season in college. He didn’t get drafted. He began his rookie season on the practice squad. He is no stranger to earning his opportunities. Or to beating odds.